Weekend Recipe: Watercress Salad with Chicken, Fennel, and Pickled Shallots

This Watercress Salad recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated contains a vinaigrette dressing that will complement just about any salad green.

In addition to oil and vinegar (or lemon juice), we make our vinaigrette with a combination of emulsifiers (mustard and mayonnaise) and a stabilizer (molasses), which help the emulsion form and hold for several days. We also use a 2:1 ratio of extra-virgin olive oil to vegetable oil, which prevents the oil molecules from bonding together and solidifying in the refrigerator while still allowing the distinct flavor of the olive oil to come through. The dressing template is adaptable to a variety of oils and acids, as well as aromatics and fresh herbs. The dressing complemented just about any salad green I tried, from plain leafy lettuces to the heartier combinations I created using cooked chicken with spinach, watercress, and arugula.

Watercress Salad

Watercress Salad with Chicken, Fennel, and Pickled Shallots
Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish


⅓ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt and pepper
2 shallots, sliced thin
10 ounces (10 cups) watercress, torn into bite-size pieces
1 fennel bulb, fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
¼ cup recipe Make-Ahead Vinaigrette
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 ounces aged gouda cheese, shaved
½ cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse


Use a vegetable peeler to shave the gouda.

1. Bring vinegar, sugar, and pinch salt to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat, add shallots, and stir to combine. Cover and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard liquid.

2. Toss watercress and fennel fronds and bulb with 3 tablespoons vinaigrette in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to serving platter. Add chicken to now-empty bowl along with remaining 1 tablespoon vinaigrette and toss to combine. Arrange chicken over watercress mixture, followed by pickled shallots. Sprinkle with gouda and peanuts and serve.

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