January is all about resolutions and, unfortunately, many of them surround food. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to up your intake of vitamins or cut down on your meat consumption. But a lot of January pacts seem to sound a lot like restricting. The way I look at it is food is sort of a consolation prize for all the other crap this world throws at us. Does this mean we’re always entitled to that bag of Ruffles? No. Balance is important in all things. But the absence of joy is a problem. That’s why today’s Coconut Poached Chicken Salad is a solid mixture of good for you and good for the soul.
As I mentioned, dieting is not my vibe. When January rolls around in this house, we do cut back a bit. And you know what? It usually feels good to do so. But we don’t abandon our simple pleasures. We still include cheese in most of our meals but we stop short of a cheeseboard. We end the day with a cocktail but don’t crack a bottle of wine afterward. You know, balance. I’d rather sprinkle my dietary indiscretions throughout the year, instead of piling them into December and repenting for them for the remaining eleven months. I simply have “light” meals and “cozy” meals and I try to love them equally.
This Coconut Poached Chicken Salad is definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum but I wouldn’t call it austere. For one thing, the poaching liquid is full-fat coconut milk, which I’m sure would make some wellness brands balk. And I’m using chicken thighs instead of breasts, which seem to be the favorite cut of chicken among the dieting public. You can, of course, swap in light coconut milk for the full-fat stuff, and ditch the thighs for breasts. I won’t be the least bit mad. I just happen to be a dark meat kind of girl and that doesn’t change just because it’s January.
The base of the salad is raw bok choy and wild rice. The one thing I am trying to be more conscious of in my eating is my intake of simple carbs. I actually really love the nutty flavor of whole grains, so there’s no reason for me to hoover bowl after bowl of white rice. I do still prefer white rice, but I know brown and wild give me more nutritional bang for my buck and fill me up more effectively. So yeah, I’m trying to incorporate more complex carbs where I can. But again, having said that, you can totally use white Jasmine rice instead. We all strike our balance differently.
Now, let’s talk bok choy. I added raw bok choy to this salad because I think it’s a delightful green. And I feel like I don’t see it enough in salads. It’s crunchy and has a clean but earthy taste. And it’s far more tender than kale or other hearty greens. Most recipes call for it to be sautéed and I, of course, love it that way. But it’s almost an entirely different green when it’s served raw. It takes on salad dressing beautifully as well. Particularly creamier dressings like the one that accompanies this Coconut Poached Chicken Salad.
But before we get to the dressing, we have to talk about the chicken first. The thing I love about poaching chicken is you get two for the price of one. What do I mean by that? Well, you get a moist, perfectly cooked piece of protein and you get a pretty awesome stock as well. Regardless, of what you choose to poach your chicken in, that liquid is going to be incredibly flavorful once your chicken is done.
In the case of this coconut poached chicken, you get the beginnings of your dressing and a pretty excellent flavor base for your next curry or stew. While it is true this poaching liquid does tend towards the salty side when you taste it on its own, it can be diluted and tinkered with to suit many other soups, curries, and sauces. For our current purposes, a 1/4 cup of the poaching liquid will become the dressing for our salad with a little help from its friends -tahini, honey, and sesame oil.
The dressing will seem a little runnier than most. But we’re pouring this concoction over a salad that is 50% rice. The absorbs the dressing in such a pleasing way. This is why I love adding grains to salad, the soak up oil, vinegar, and pretty much everything else you throw at them so well. They’re like little flavor sponges.
This Coconut Poached Chicken Salad is finished with fresh mango, shaved radish, and a few other things I had kicking around my crisper. Feel free to play with what you add as finishers to this salad. This is the most flexible portion of the recipe, so let the contents of your fridge be your guide. That’s everything there is to know about today’s recipe. It hits all the food groups and contains many essential vitamins. But more importantly, it tastes damn good.
Coconut Poached Chicken Salad with Rice and Bok Choy
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 kitchen mallet
- 1 mandoline
- 2 cup water
- 1 cup brown and wild rice blend
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 2 shallots cut into half-moons
- 1 (400ml, 13.5 fl oz) can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 (1-inch) knob fresh ginger sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass smashed with a mallet
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 chicken thighs
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 tbsp tahini heaping
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 heads Shanghai bok choy leaves separated and coarsely chopped
- 1½ cups sugar snap peas
- 1 Ataulfo mango peeled and sliced
- 2 radishes shaved on a mandoline
- Shichimi Togarashi optional
- fresh mint leaves optional
- Pour the water, rice, and salt into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes. Fluff the rice and set it aside.2 cup water, 1 cup brown and wild rice blend, ½ tsp kosher salt
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallot and a pinch of salt. Saute until just translucent.1 tbsp neutral oil, 2 shallots
- Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken thighs and simmer for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and simmer for another 10. Finish the chicken with lime juice.1 (400ml, 13.5 fl oz) can full-fat coconut milk, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 (1-inch) knob fresh ginger, 1 stalk lemongrass, 2 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 6 chicken thighs, 1 lime
- Take the chicken out of the poaching liquid and set it aside to cool. Drain the poaching liquid and pour 1/3 cup of it into a small bowl. Add the tahini, honey, and sesame oil. Whisk to combine. Taste and add additional soy sauce, if desired. ** When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into strips.1 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp sesame oil
- Place the rice, bok choy, and sugar snap peas in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Divide the salad across four bowls. Top each bowl with the chicken, mango, and shaved radish. Finish with a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi and fresh mint leaves, if desired.2 heads Shanghai bok choy, 1½ cups sugar snap peas, 1 Ataulfo mango, 2 radishes, Shichimi Togarashi, fresh mint leaves