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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: Soft lettuces, fresh mint, asparagus, and sugar snaps garnish this spring chicken salad

Spring Chicken Salad with Buttermilk DressingSally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Serves 4

Celebrate the longer, brighter days of spring with a lively main course salad of soft lettuces, fresh mint, radishes, asparagus, and sugar snap peas as garnishes for chicken breasts, all coated with buttermilk dressing. A few tricks will make your vegetables crisper, your dressing easier, and your chicken juicier. To retain the bright green color of asparagus and snap peas, set a big bowl of ice water next to the stove. As soon as the vegetables are tender, pop them into the water bath, swish them around to cool them, and let them drain on paper towels. For the dressing, let chopped shallots macerate in lemon juice for a few minutes to tame them (raw shallots become pungent as they sit), then stir in mayonnaise and buttermilk. Chicken breasts are everyone's favorite, but they often end up overcooked and dry. Salt bone-in breasts under, and on top of, the skin to bring out their flavor. Roast them in a moderate oven (350 degrees; don't rush it) and use a thermometer to keep them from drying out. When the thickest part of a breast registers 165 degrees, they're done, but they won't win any beauty contests yet. Slide them under the broiler for a minute or two to brown and crisp the skin. The bones, which impart extra flavor, are easiest to remove while the chicken is still warm. Lift the meat off the bones and slice the breasts thickly. Arrange plates as if you were planting a flower garden. Everything comes together in this beautiful ode to spring.

DRESSING

1 small shallot, finely chopped
2tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
½cup mayonnaise
½cup buttermillk

1. In a bowl, combine the shallots, lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Whisk in the mayonnaise and buttermilk. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

SALAD

4 chicken breast halves, skin and bones intact (about 3 pounds)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
8ounces sugar snap peas, stems trimmed and strings pulled off
1bunch fresh asparagus
1head Boston (butter) lettuce, leaves separated
4large radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1bunch fresh mint, leaves removed

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle the underside of the breasts with salt. Turn them over and slip your fingers under the skin to loosen it without detaching it. Sprinkle with salt. Replace the skin to its original position over the meat. Set the chicken, skin side up, on the baking sheet. Rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast registers 165 degrees. The chicken will not be very brown at this point.

3. Remove the chicken from the oven. Set an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element. Turn on the broiler. When the broiler is hot, broil the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crisp. Watch it carefully so it does not burn.

4. Let the chicken sit until it is cool enough to handle. With your hands, remove the meat from the bones, leaving the skin intact. Cut the breasts into slices.

5. Bring a deep skillet of salted water to a boil. Have on hand a bowl of ice water. Line a platter with paper towels.

6. Add the snap peas to the water and cook for about 1 minute, or just until they turn bright green. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to the ice water. When cool, move them to the paper towel-lined platter.

7. Bend each asparagus spear about 2 inches from the stem end until the spear breaks. Discard the stem ends. Return the skillet of water to a boil. Add the spears and cook for 1 1/2 minutes for skinny spears, 2 minutes for fatter spears. When the thickest part of the spears offer little resistance when pierced with the tip of a knife, transfer them to the bowl of ice water. With a slotted spatula, transfer them to the paper towels to drain. Cut them into 2-inch lengths.

8. On each of 4 large plates, arrange lettuce, asparagus, snap peas, radishes, and mint leaves. Set the chicken slices on top and sprinkle with dressing. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

Celebrate the longer, brighter days of spring with a lively main course salad of soft lettuces, fresh mint, radishes, asparagus, and sugar snap peas as garnishes for chicken breasts, all coated with buttermilk dressing. A few tricks will make your vegetables crisper, your dressing easier, and your chicken juicier. To retain the bright green color of asparagus and snap peas, set a big bowl of ice water next to the stove. As soon as the vegetables are tender, pop them into the water bath, swish them around to cool them, and let them drain on paper towels. For the dressing, let chopped shallots macerate in lemon juice for a few minutes to tame them (raw shallots become pungent as they sit), then stir in mayonnaise and buttermilk. Chicken breasts are everyone's favorite, but they often end up overcooked and dry. Salt bone-in breasts under, and on top of, the skin to bring out their flavor. Roast them in a moderate oven (350 degrees; don't rush it) and use a thermometer to keep them from drying out. When the thickest part of a breast registers 165 degrees, they're done, but they won't win any beauty contests yet. Slide them under the broiler for a minute or two to brown and crisp the skin. The bones, which impart extra flavor, are easiest to remove while the chicken is still warm. Lift the meat off the bones and slice the breasts thickly. Arrange plates as if you were planting a flower garden. Everything comes together in this beautiful ode to spring.

DRESSING

1 small shallot, finely chopped
2tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
½cup mayonnaise
½cup buttermillk

1. In a bowl, combine the shallots, lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Whisk in the mayonnaise and buttermilk. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

SALAD

4 chicken breast halves, skin and bones intact (about 3 pounds)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
8ounces sugar snap peas, stems trimmed and strings pulled off
1bunch fresh asparagus
1head Boston (butter) lettuce, leaves separated
4large radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1bunch fresh mint, leaves removed

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle the underside of the breasts with salt. Turn them over and slip your fingers under the skin to loosen it without detaching it. Sprinkle with salt. Replace the skin to its original position over the meat. Set the chicken, skin side up, on the baking sheet. Rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast registers 165 degrees. The chicken will not be very brown at this point.

3. Remove the chicken from the oven. Set an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element. Turn on the broiler. When the broiler is hot, broil the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crisp. Watch it carefully so it does not burn.

4. Let the chicken sit until it is cool enough to handle. With your hands, remove the meat from the bones, leaving the skin intact. Cut the breasts into slices.

5. Bring a deep skillet of salted water to a boil. Have on hand a bowl of ice water. Line a platter with paper towels.

6. Add the snap peas to the water and cook for about 1 minute, or just until they turn bright green. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to the ice water. When cool, move them to the paper towel-lined platter.

7. Bend each asparagus spear about 2 inches from the stem end until the spear breaks. Discard the stem ends. Return the skillet of water to a boil. Add the spears and cook for 1 1/2 minutes for skinny spears, 2 minutes for fatter spears. When the thickest part of the spears offer little resistance when pierced with the tip of a knife, transfer them to the bowl of ice water. With a slotted spatula, transfer them to the paper towels to drain. Cut them into 2-inch lengths.

8. On each of 4 large plates, arrange lettuce, asparagus, snap peas, radishes, and mint leaves. Set the chicken slices on top and sprinkle with dressing. Serve extra dressing on the side.Sally Pasley Vargas