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Grilled Sesame Chicken and Eggplant Salad

Bowls Footed Bowls Michael Aram Platters/Trays Serving and Tabletop

Reading the following article I thought it would be fun to share it with more than just a few friends who loved her books so instead we are bringing it to you our blog followers.

The French Chef's Detour to China

By DAVID TANIS

Published: August 10, 2012

WE all know that Julia Child was a devoted Francophile, and that her passion was traditional French home cooking (though she wouldn’t turn down an invitation to a fancy French restaurant, either).

But a lesser-known fact is that she also loved Chinese food. She never cooked it herself, but adored going to Chinese restaurants, a habit she developed when she worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Asia during World War II. It was her husband-to-be, Paul Child, who introduced her to Chinese cuisine (he introduced her to French cuisine, too), and for a period of time they were stationed in China.

In the decades after their return to the United States, they would often go out for sumptuous Chinese banquets. Julia appreciated the subtlety, delicacy and complexity of these meals, which she found nearly as enchanting as her beloved French fare. Since she didn’t care for spicy food, Hunan or Sichuan were not options. She preferred classic Cantonese.

When I met Julia, some 20 years ago, she was already semiretired and a bit frail. Yet she had a hearty appetite and was always game for a feast.

I remember a birthday party Alice Waters gave her one year when I was cooking at Chez Panisse. Alice wanted it to be very casual, so we decided to make a simple fish soup. We steamed clams in a huge caldron in the fireplace and served them in a bouillabaisse broth with big slabs of garlic toast.

Julia and her sister, Dorothy (who was just as tall), were happily hunkered down at the table, devouring clams and sopping up the broth. The wine flowed. By meal’s end there were clam shells scattered everywhere. I still recall that sight vividly.

If Julia were coming to lunch today, I might serve her this Franco-Chinese chicken salad. I think she would have enjoyed it. And perhaps, if she ever ventured into Chinese cooking, she might have made something like it. The ginger and sesame notwithstanding, it is essentially very much like a French salade composée, with grilled chicken breast and a zesty vinaigrette.

But for her, I would tone down the hot pepper. Or at least serve it on the side.

 A version of this article appeared in print on August 15, 2012, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: The French Chef’s Detour To China.

I tried this recipe the other night when a group of friends came over and voila--a success!  I served it in a beautiful New Molten Footed Bowl by Michael Aram.  Hope you love it as much as we did!

Grilled Sesame Chicken and Eggplant Salad

TOTAL TIME
About 1 hour

For the marinade

  • 4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts, about 8 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese chile paste or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For the vinaigrette and garnish

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Bibb or Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound small cucumbers, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 jalapeño, green or red, thinly sliced, optional
  • Lime wedges

Preparation

1.
Remove the tenderloins from the underside of the chicken breasts and reserve for another purpose. Trim breasts if necessary and flatten them slightly with a meat mallet. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and place in a shallow dish. Using a clean knife and cutting board, peel eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch slices, then season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant slices in a separate shallow dish.
2.
Prepare the marinade: stir together ginger, garlic, soy sauce, peanut oil, sesame oil, rice wine and chile paste in a small bowl. Pour half the marinade over chicken and remaining marinade over eggplant, turning over to coat well. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. (You may do this step up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before cooking.)
3.
Make the vinaigrette: whisk together rice vinegar, ginger, brown sugar, mustard, sesame oil, peanut oil, salt and lime juice. Set aside.
4.
Heat a stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat, or use a charcoal or gas grill. Grill eggplant slices until nicely browned and softened, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and hold at room temperature. Lay chicken breasts on the grill skin side down and let cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until firm to the touch, about 2 minutes more. Remove breasts to a platter and let rest 5 minutes.
5.
Line a large platter with lettuce leaves. Cut chicken into 1/4-inch slices and arrange over lettuce. Arrange grilled eggplant around the platter. Lightly salt cucumbers and dress with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette, then scatter over salad. Spoon the rest of the vinaigrette evenly over salad. Top with scallions and cilantro, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish with optional jalapeño slices and lime wedges and serve.
YIELD
4 to 6 servings.
 
Originally published with The French Chef’s Detour to China                
                                           By DAVID TANIS, August 15, 2012
 


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