Make This Light and Easy Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing

20150528-chicken-salad-nuta-avocado-corn-1.jpg

Juicy chicken in a lemony miso dressing with avocado and corn.[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The other day I discovered that the secret to making the best chicken salad is to cook that chicken in a sealed bag, packing the bag with aromatics that will give the chicken flavor before it even gets dressed. The method works great in a classic mayo-based chicken salad, but I hate to see a good technique relegated to one single use, so I decided to adapt it a bit.

Sous-vide chicken comes out so tender and juicy that it almost reminds me of fatty sashimi-grade tuna on your tongue. With that as inspiration, I started with the flavors of a Japanese nuta, a simple dish of tuna with a creamy dressing made with miso and mirin. I tried messing around with yuzu juice and Japanese-style Kewpie mayo but found both flavors to be a little overwhelming. Instead I opted for a pinch of hot Japanese mustard and shichimi togarashi (a Japanese seven spice blend made primarily with chili, black sesame seeds, nori, and dried orange peel) along with plain old lemon juice.

For the actual chicken, I stuck with the method I'd developed for my classic chicken salad, bagging bone-in skin-on chicken breasts with some aromatics (in this case scallions and ginger) and cooking it at 150°F for one hour to yield meat that is firm yet incredibly tender and juicy.

I often fold in a bit of avocado with my tuna nuta and that worked just as well in this chicken version. I also liked it with some sweet corn folded in. I tried cooking the corn two ways: boiled plain in salted water vs. sautéing until lightly browned. The latter won out in the end, adding a sweet nuttiness to the mix. For kicks I also tried microwaving the corn in a small bowl and accidentally discovered that if you microwave corn for long enough, it browns and sweetens very much as if you'd sautéed it! This is a trick that definitely merits some more thorough testing. I'll report back later in the summer.

In the meantime, this salad will do well to tide you over.