Crisp and Crunchy Chicken Salad
If you prefer skinless, boneless thighs, that’s fine too. You will need to add about 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan to start, and your total cook time will be shorter. Change up the crunchy vegetables as you wish—any sturdy veggie that you enjoy eating raw will be equally good.
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1½ pounds total)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bunch scallions
3 small cucumbers (such as Persian or kirby)
1 bunch small radishes (such as red, Easter Egg, or icicle), trimmed
1 kohlrabi or ½ fennel bulb, 4-inch piece daikon, 1 watermelon radish, or 1 medium beet, trimmed
3 tablespoons (or more) red wine vinegar
Handful of salted pita chips, lightly crushed (for serving)
- Heat a medium heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium.
- Meanwhile, place chicken thighs, skin side down, on a work surface. Using a paring knife and working one at a time, cut a ½”-deep slash on both sides of thigh bone. This will help the thighs cook a little more quickly and evenly. If there is excess skin extending beyond thigh meat, trim and add to skillet to render. (If you don’t have any extra chicken fat, a drizzle of olive oil, 1 tsp. schmaltz, or 1 tsp. coconut oil can be used to grease pan.)
- Season chicken on both sides with salt and sprinkle with mustard and fennel seeds, patting to adhere. Cook chicken, skin side down, in pan, without turning, until skin is very deeply browned and crisp and chicken is about 75% cooked through, 18–20 minutes. The goal during this stage is to allow the chicken skin to render most of its fat, which you can’t really rush. Some seeds will end up sizzling in the pan instead of staying stuck to the chicken, which is fine and flavors the oil. If it looks or smells like they’re burning, though, skim them out with spoon. Turn chicken and cook on second side until just cooked through, 3–4 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter and let rest 10 minutes.
- While chicken is cooking and/or resting, cut scallions crosswise into ½” pieces; you can go most of the way up to the dark green tips. Cut cucumbers into 1″ pieces. Slice radishes and kohlrabi thin enough to be flexible but still crunchy (use a mandoline if you have one, but they should not be paper thin, or else they’ll get floppy when dressed). Transfer vegetables to a salad bowl you’re planning to serve from and add vinegar and a pinch of salt; toss to combine.
- Cut chicken into 2 long strips by cutting along both sides of the bone. (If your knife blade is dull, use a serrated knife, which will saw through the skin without separating it from the flesh.) Slice off whatever meat is attached to the topside and underside of bone. Cut chicken crosswise into 1½–2″ pieces.
- Gently toss warm chicken and pita chips into bowl with vegetables. Taste salad and season with more vinegar and/or salt, as needed.
Recipe by Carla Lalli Music
Photograph by Photo by Alex Lau