Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chicken, Asparagus, and Rice Salad

Asparagus season, one of the first glorious eras of the farmers' market, is just about at an end. While its nearing departure will leave a hole in my culinary repertoire, it will soon be supplanted by other wonderful offerings. It's hard for me to break away from my tendency to roast or grill asparagus, but this simple salad is worth it. Like so many great summer dishes, this is wonderful room temperature or cold, with leftovers holding up well for lunch the next day. It's a fairly basic recipe - chicken, rice, and vegetables dressed in a simple vinaigrette - but all of the components are so wonderfully balanced that it comes out to so much more than the sum of the parts. The familiar combination of onions, chicken, and rice are hearty and filling, but the asparagus, dill, and cucumber make the dish fresh and summery. The light and well balanced dressing hits all the right sweet, sour, and sharp notes, gently kissing all the ingredients without overwhelming them. As the season evolves and the farmers' market bounty changes, I can easily imagine making this recipe with green beans or sugar snap peas, and also swapping out pork cutlets or flank steak for the chicken.

Chicken, Asparagus and Rice Salad
adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 2

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried drill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill, plus additional for garnish
1 tablespoons canola oil
Extra-virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup diced yellow or white onion
4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces thin asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cooked brown rice
3/4 cups diced English hothouse cucumber (about 4 ounces)

1. Combine Dijon mustard, sugar, vinegar, dry mustard, and dill in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and oil is hot, add onion and cook, stirring frequently until onion is translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add chicken, spread in a single layer, and cook without disturbing until the chicken begins to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Add asparagus, stir well to combine, and continue cooking until asparagus is tender and chicken is cooked through, another 2 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside, and cool to room temperature.

3. Whisk dressing again and add cooked rice, cucumber, and chicken-asparagus to bowl and toss thoroughly to coat. Garnish with additional fresh dill, if desired, and serve at room temperature or cold.

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