PANERA BREAD ASIAN SESAME CHICKEN SALAD

This salad and the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad are the two most popular salads on Panera’s menu. Each of these salads has different toppings and different delicious dressings, but the secret chicken marinade recipe is exactly the same, so regardless of which of the two salad clones you decide to make you’ll need some forethought, since the chicken has to marinate for 2 hours, then chill for another 2 hours after it’s cooked. This recipe shows you how to make the great crispy wonton strips found on the Panera Bread Asian Sesame Chicken Salad using wonton wrappers, but if you want a shortcut, you can instead use crispy chow mein noodles from the Asian foods section at your market.

CHICKEN MARINADE
½ cup water
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup canola oil
3 tablespoons minced red onion
2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
1½ teaspoons lemon pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon hickory liquid smoke flavoring
2 6-ounce skinless chicken breast fillets

DRESSING
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of ground oregano
Pinch of salt
⅓ cup canola oil
Vegetable oil or canola oil for frying
8 wonton wrappers
16 cups chopped romaine lettuce
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup chopped cilantro


Cooking method

1-Make marinade for the chicken by combining all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the chicken, then cover and marinate for 2 hours in your refrigerator.

2-When the chicken has finished marinating, remove it from the marinade and place it on a rack with the underside of the chicken breasts facing up. Brush some additional marinade over the top of the chicken and bake it in a 375 degrees F oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until done (internal temperature in the thickest part of the breasts should be 165 degrees). Cool the chicken breasts in a covered container in your refrigerator for several hours, or if you want to rush it, put the chicken in the freezer for 1 hour, then in your refrigerator for 1 hour. When the chicken breasts are cold, thinly slice each fillet across the width.

3-Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, mustard, oregano, and salt. Mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oil while whisking briskly, then cover and chill the dressing until it’s needed.

4-Make the crispy wontons by heating up some oil in a medium saucepan or deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Slice a stack of 8 wonton wrappers into strips and then slice those strips in half. Fry the sliced wontons in the hot oil for 30 to 45 seconds or until golden brown. Gently stir the wontons in the oil so that they fry evenly on both sides. Remove the crispy wonton strips from the oil to a paper towel–lined plate.

5-Build each salad by placing 4 cups of chopped romaine in a large mixing bowl. Toss the lettuce with 3 tablespoons of the dressing, then place the greens on a large plate or in a bowl.

6-Sprinkle one-quarter of the crispy wonton strips over the lettuce followed by one-quarter of the chicken (half of a chicken breast) on the salad. Top with 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds and 1 tablespoon of cilantro.

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