I don’t know how everyone’s Thanksgiving holidays go, but ours go a little something like this. We begin with the best of intentions. We roast a giant turkey with loads of side dishes and desserts, and every time a food item gets called into question with the inevitable “but there’s four of us: do we really need all that?” it gets answered with “but it’s okay, because we’ll have leftovers!” Thanksgiving happens. wonderful piles of food are eaten, and we are thrilled. That evening, we are thrilled with our turkey sandwiches. The next day, we are happy, but not thrilled. By the following day, we’re noticably less thrilled and one of us is rifling through takeout menus to find anything – anything – which does not resemble our Thanksgiving meal.
I say rifle no more, my friends; hands off those takeout menus. For I have made for you a thing which will satisfy your secret need for anti-thanksgiving flavors while at the same time using some of your precious leftovers. it’s hearty, yet light, so you won’t feel like you’re adding to those holiday pounds. The vegetables and greens in here will make you feel good about yourself, rather than wanting to unbutton your pants and sink deep into the couch for a nap. You don’t need this salad because you hate Thanksgiving; on the contrary, you need it because you love Thanksgiving and don’t want to ruin the holiday by dulling your taste buds with the same flavors.
This comes from a recipe called “Chinatown Chicken Salad,” and I’ve been wanting to make it for over a year now, and just never got around to it. I was thinking it would make the perfect salad to de-Thanksgiving your taste buds, because it’s such a polar opposite from what you’ve most likely been eating. All it requires is a few extra produce things purchased either during your Thanksgiving grocery shop, or when you got out the following day. You can use the leftover turkey you know you’ll have, and if you buy some extra fresh green beans, throw them in too. Maybe you have a veggie tray; grab some red pepper slivers from there. Lots of you have nuts set out to snack on, so use some of the peanuts (or cashews, if you have those) to top it all off. As for the dressing, a bit of fresh ginger added to a few Asian things I keep as staples in my pantry, and you’re set. Nothing to it.
Even though you’ll be using traditionally spiced turkey for this, the flavor of the ingredients and the tanginess of the dressing really do their job at covering up that flavor profile and melding it into this one, so no need to worry that it will clash; it won’t. And if you’re a vegetarian, go for it without meat; with everything else in here, you won’t feel like something is missing.
Will I be making this for my family aprés-Thanksgiving? Absolutely; I’ve already informed them that this is on the menu for that Saturday. Because I have no idea how many people you have shacking up with you or coming over to visit, I’m making it easy and giving you measurements for the salad and dressing for four people, in quantities which make it extremely easy to multiply and divide (1/4 cup of this, 1 of that, and so on) according to how many you’re making this for.
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson. A book which I dearly love and have a special attachment to. Find out why in the cookbook library.
Chinatown Turkey Salad*
for the dressing:
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 4 teaspoons seasoned rice wine vinegar (or use regular rice wine vinegar, if you wish)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake**
for the salad:
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped into ribbons
- 4 cups turkey, shredded or chopped, and cooled
- 4 scallions, slit in half vertically and julienned
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 1 cup fresh green beans, chopped into 1-inch sections
- 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts (I used the lightly salted sort), rough chopped or left as they are
- handful of cilantro leaves, for serving
*obviously, this is easy to do anytime, not just after Thanksgiving. You can roast up a turkey tenderloin, or you can use chicken breasts. Don’t feel like this should be confined to times when you’re using up leftovers; this is some high-flavor, high-quality salad here.
**whether you include the red pepper flake in your dressing is largely dependent on your salad audience’s tolerance for spice. Adding something like that to dressing sort of melts the heat in, and there’s no going back. If you’ve got guests who don’t want all that heat, leave it out, opting to use a sprinkle as garnish on your finished salads for those who do like a little kick.
Make your dressing:
In a medium-sized lidded jar (I like to use a glass canning jar due to the snug fit of the lid),Add your fresh ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil. Tightly close lid and shake until homogenous. Add your red pepper flake (as much or as little as you like), shake a few more times, and place in your fridge to chill.
Make your salad:
Truly, at this point the instructions have given you most of the information on what you should do; now it’s just a matter of plating. Divide your romaine ribbons on to 4 large plates. Next, divide your red pepper strips, green bean pieces, and bean sprouts in the same fashion. Top this with the turkey, then sprinkle each with the julienned scallion.
Toss the peanuts overtop, and chop your cilantro, or not; you can simple remove leaf from stem and toss a few on each salad, you choose.
Remove your dressing from the fridge, give it a good few shakes. Using a regular spoon, drizzle a few spoonfuls over each salad and serve immediately.
Remember; this will yield 4 generously portioned salads, but for smaller appetites, you could possibly stretch it to 6. If you’re concerned about the quantity of dressing (I think it’s perfect for 4 salads, but some like a little more dressing), simply double the recipe for the dressing.