July 6th, 2011RecipesDebbie Williams 2 Comments

Though I am a California girl, I grew up in a small rural town, not on the trendy West Coast of California, therefore, I was not exposed early to fine or fashionable foods. It was pretty much down home cooking at our house. It is interesting how the preparation of food has changed over the years. In our home meat was fried or roasted for hours, fresh vegetables were boiled beyond recognition, and fresh berries were coated and soaked in sugar. Really, I thought all asparagus was pale green and slimmy, that berries came in a sugary sauce, and all salads were coated in some enormous amount of mayonnaise. So, when in the late 1960’s or, in my hometown, the early 1970’s (it takes a while for things to travel 150-200 miles), Chinese Chicken Salad hit the scene and it was a revolution. My mom must have been so much cooler than I realized, because, looking back, she was one of the first I knew to make a great Chinese Chicken Salad. Here is my mom’s version of Chinese Chicken Salad.

Mom’s Chinese Chicken Salad
3 chicken breasts (with bone and skin) and yes, girls, chicken originally came with bones and skin. The reason for using skin on and bone in chicken, is when boiling , it tends to add flavor (and fat, but, we don’t need to talk about that). Place in a large saucepan and cover with tap water, a generous amount of salt (salt is good), and bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 1 hour or more (more is better because you have to cook it to death) until the chicken is tender. Drain, cool, remove skin and bone, and set aside.

One head of Iceberg Lettuce (that is the round, pale, lettuce, which use to be the only one available). Shred the lettuce, do not tear.
1 bunch of green onion coarsely sliced
4 ounces of rice sticks lightly fried in hot oil until they swell and then drain on a paper towel.
1/4 cup of toasted slivered almonds (toast until lighly browned on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven)
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds (toast same as almonds)

Dressing
1/2 cup Wesson corn oil (Yep, good ole corn oil)
4 tablespoons white vinegar (no fancy vinegar in our cupboard)
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon salt (definetly not sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon pepper

When chicken is cool enought to touch, using your fingers and a fork, shred the chicken (do not dice or slice). In a large tupperware bowl, (tupperware was a fashion statement) place shredded lettuce, sliced green onions, almonds, sesame seeds, dressing, and toss well. Serve immediately, or even better let sit in the ice box ( I know, I called it an ice box, it really was a refrigerator, but, my parents still called it an ice box) let it get soggy and eat it for days on end. Yummy, it really was. Serves about 6-8.

As all things do, even Chinese Chicken Salad progressed. After all, once you have left your home town, lived a little, eaten at Applebee’s, or P.F. Chang’s, even Mom’s cooking needs an update. And so, my daughter’s have taken the wooden spoon and carried on their grandmother’s tradition. They are cooking with the times and so, here is daughter, Sarah’s, Chinese Chicken Salad. This would make grandma proud.

Chinese Chicken Salad for the 21st Century
Marinate 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast in a glass dish covered with water, a generous amount of garlic salt, and 4 tablespoons of Girards Chinese Chicken Salad Dresssing for 4-6 hours.
Remove from marinate and grill on an outdoor gas grill or indoors on a grill pan for about 10-15 minutes until just done. Remove from heat and chill.
In a large glass salad bowl, arrange two bags of prewashed torn romaine lettuce, chilled sliced chicken, packaged won ton strips, one small package of slivered almonds, and sliced green onions. Right before serving, toss with Girards Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing. Serve plated with a croissaint or a warm sourdough roll. Delish! Serves 4-6.

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'2 Responses to “Chinese Chicken Salad, Old & New”'
  1. Julie Romagnoli says:

    Hi Dear Debbie – Your Mom WAS ahead of her time 🙂 – It was always the ‘IceBox’ at our house, and nothing ‘fancy’. It was a very cool way to grow up – wouldn’t change a thing about it!

  2. Marcella Stone says:

    Debbie,

    I read your tribute to your father in this mornings Fresno Bee. My Dad worked at a sawmill during the day for 35 years in north Idaho (Potlatch Forest Inc.) where I grew up, came home to milk cows at 5 o’clock, and again at 5 o’clock the next morning. He farmed 80 acres – some in trees and enough pasture for a few cows and a couple of horses. We had Tom and Jerry (matched pair), and Dolly that we rode bareback or with a saddle. Some of the property was tilled and my Dad sowed oats for our livestock. I remember Dolly pulling the single blade plow, with my Dad holding the wooden handles with the reins around his waist. When he got Tom and Jerry they pulled the mower when the grain was ripe. We didn’t have a bailer so the loose hay was hauled to the barn in a wagon and pitched into the barn. It was very dusty work. We didn’t have Tom and Jerry too long. My Dad probably couldn’t pay the rest of what he owed. It was the 30’s and early 40’s. We didn’t disuss finances. Times were tough for everybody.

    My Dad liked to sing, and as hard as my father had to work to support 9 children he always had time to sing for me. I would sit on his knee and he would sing my request, “Froggy Went a Courtin” over and over. I remember most of the verses, but I think I will try to find all the words of that song on the Internet.

    I remember my mother canning vegetables from our big garden every summer, as well as fruits she purchased by the box. We had a wood stove for cooking and another for heating the house. I remember the kitchen as being very hot during canning season. She would be up late at night taking jars from the oval boiler – which doubled as the second rinse tub (with bluing) when she washed clothes. Until she got an electric washing machine she washed clothes on a scrub board. I had six brothers so there were a lot of overalls to be washed on Monday.

    We started out with an ‘Ice Box’, but ice wasn’t easy to find in the rural area where we lived. When REA came to the area and we got electricity she found an electric refrigerator with a motor on top. I remember it as being quite noisy.

    I wish I could make Parker House rolls that tasted like my mothers. I keep trying. I sometimes get tears in my eyes thinking about what little my mother had in the way of an eay life. I have so much more than she had and I feel truly blessed, but sad that she didn’t have all the conveniences that we have today. My mother made her own yeast from potato water. The bread was very crumbly for sandwiches, but the Parker House rolls were ‘to die for.’ I remember the fried egg sandwiches she occasionally sent us to school with. Sometimes the yolk wasn’t quite hard. I don’t remember anyone wanting to trade sandwiches with me