This reimagined chicken salad has a whole lot going for it. It’s full of fresh, spunky flavors. It’s sturdy enough to tote to your next picnic or backyard gathering (no hot mayo or wilted leaves in sight). It can be made in advance—up to several days before you plan to serve it—and served at any temperature. And best of all, it’s a template for endlessly customizable, make-ahead dinners any season of the year.
The technique is simple: On a sheet pan, broil chicken thighs (marinated in a zesty chile-lime vinaigrette) until juicy and charred, then set them aside to rest. On the same sheet pan, toss shaved broccoli and fresh corn in the golden, rendered fat (and a little more of the vinaigrette) and broil them too. Thinly slice the chicken and toss it with the charred broccoli and corn. From there, load-up your salad with cherry tomatoes, crunchy almonds, and cilantro, and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.
With this technique in hand, you can riff to your heart’s content. Don’t have chicken thighs? Chicken breasts work just fine, or call in tofu or tempeh for a plant-based version. Don’t have broccoli? Swap in shaved cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or kale. Don’t have or like cilantro? Reach for other herbs or leafy greens like arugula or spinach instead. No matter which way you go, you’ll have a simple, satisfying meal, for now or later. —EmilyC
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4, with leftovers
- For the Chicken & Broccoli Salad:
1 1/4 pounds
boneless, skinless chicken thighs
large or 2 small broccoli crowns (about 1 pound)
to 3 ears yellow corn, shucked
cherry tomatoes, halved
cilantro (leaves and tender stems), coarsely chopped (or mix of cilantro, basil, and/or mint
- For the Chile-Lime Vinaigrette:
finely grated lime zest (from 2 to 3 limes)
freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1 1/4 teaspoons
chile powder (salt-free)
(or to taste) red pepper flakes or cayenne powder
3 1/2 tablespoons
extra-virgin olive oil
soy sauce (regular or low-sodium)
- To make chile-lime vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or jar with tight-fitting lid. Whisk or shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust the acid and seasoning. This dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance; just transfer to an airtight container, cover, and chill.
- In a small bowl, toss the chicken with 3 tablespoons vinaigrette + 3/4 teaspoon salt to evenly coat. Let marinate while preparing the rest of the ingredients, or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours in advance.
- While the chicken is marinating, prep the broccoli and corn: For the broccoli, remove leaves and trim the stem. Cut the head into quarters. Use a sharp knife, slicing blade of a food processor, or mandolin to cut the broccoli, stem and florets, into 1/4-inch slices. For the corn, cut the kernels off each cob, and combine with the broccoli.
- Preheat broiler and set oven rack about 6 inches below the heating element. Line a half sheet pan with foil, and place a wire cooling rack into the pan. (If you don’t have a cooling rack that fits, that’s okay—just proceed with the foil.) Transfer the chicken to the wire rack, draining off excess vinaigrette into the bowl; arrange evenly so the chicken doesn’t overlap. Broil about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, then flip and broil another 4 to 5 on the second side, or until the thighs are charred around the edges and 165 degrees F in their thickest parts. (Total cooking time will depend on intensity of your broiler.)
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Remove the wire rack from the sheet pan, if using. Toss the broccoli and corn on the sheet pan in the chicken fat, 2 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt, to taste. Use your hands to toss so you don’t tear the foil. Return the pan to the broiler, and cook until the broccoli and corn are crisp-tender and charred in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- To assemble the salad: sprinkle halved tomatoes with a few pinches of salt, then add to a serving bowl. Thinly slice the chicken, then add it to the bowl. Toss the chicken and tomatoes with 1 to 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Add the broccoli, corn, almonds, and cilantro to the bowl—and drizzle in more vinaigrette, a little at a time, until the salad is lightly and evenly dressed (you may not need all of the vinaigrette). Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
- To stretch leftovers, add avocado or crumbled cheese, such as cotija or feta, to the mix!