Recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Slaw

It finally, finally, FINALLY happened: summer has hit Seattle.  My friends and I have a running joke that summer is the best day of the year in Seattle: a day in which everyone skips out on work, hits the ballpark and witnesses a small miracle – in yesterday’s case the miracle was Felix Hernandez’s perfect game – before heading to Alki beach for a bonfire and stargazing.  Seattle’s summer is fleeting, but it is nothing short of glorious.  Sunny days here are a chance for the city to remind its people of why we are crazy enough to stick around here through the months of endless gray and drizzle that we suffer through.  Sunny days breed optimism, roast our porcelain skin, and fill every patio in the city with white wine / iced tea / milkshake drinking adults that are happy to leave their cares behind for a brief moment.

The last time summer hit Seattle, I was a hot mess of a graduate student – pounding out my thesis in a Starbucks thinking to myself, “I will never be caught dead in a coffee shop on a day like today EVER again.”  I was looking forward to never toting my laptop anywhere again, never sitting in a coffee shop again and certainly never spending a summer day working again.  It’s ironic that, nearly a year to the day after I made that promise to myself, I am once again sitting in a coffee shop.  Working.  On stuff.  I suppose I should be grateful that the “stuff” I’m working on is my business and that I’m sipping on unsweetened iced tea at Macrina instead of coffee-flavored crack at Starbucks… but it still feels ridiculous.  And not in a good way, like this slaw, which is ridiculously good.  And refreshing.  Literally the only thing I’d want to eat on a 90-degree afternoon.

Vietnamese Chicken Slaw

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
Juice of 1 lime
A dozen or so fresh basil leaves
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, julienned
4 oz. sugar snap peas
1 small jalepeno, minced (optional)
2 handfuls dry roasted cashews, roughly chopped
10 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp. coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:
1) Brine the chicken – in a large bowl or zipper storage bag, pour 4 cups of water and mix well with 3 cloves of garlic that you’ve smashed slightly, 2 Tbsp. salt and peppercorns.  Add chicken and cover the bowl (or close the bag).  Refrigerate for at least two hours, up to all night long.  Rinse the chicken well and set aside until poaching time.
2) To poach the chicken, place it in a large pot.  Cover with 2 c. water, coconut amines, juice from half your lime and a few whole basil leaves.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.  Simmer for 10 minutes before turning off the heat and allowing chicken to rest in the hot water for 15-20 more minutes.  When finished, let chicken cool before shredding with a fork and setting aside.
3) Meanwhile, prep the veggie mixture.  Mix the carrots, snap peas, jalepeno, red pepper and cashews together in a bowl.  Mince the garlic and chop up the remaining basil and mint before adding it to the veggie party.  Add the lime juice, coconut vinegar, olive oil and toss with a spatula to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste before mixing in the shredded chicken.  Chill for at least one hour prior to serving.  Then, dish up and get out to your patio because before you know it, the rain will be back and a cold salad won’t seem like much of a great idea anymore.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 3.5 hours (including fridge time for brining and chilling)
Serves: 4-6 people, depending on whether you use it as an entree or a side

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