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Chinese Chicken Salad with Carrots and Star Anise
This creative, light, room-temperature salad features a subtle whiff of anise.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
7 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light rice-wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
1/4 cup crumbled star anise
1/4 cup broad, thin slices of peeled fresh ginger
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
8 medium scallions
1/4 pound carrots
3 tablespoons peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a bowl blend the soy sauce, 4 teaspoons of the sugar, the five-spice powder (if you choose to use it), 1/4 cup of the rice-wine vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Blend in the star anise and the ginger. Place the chicken breasts in the mixture, making sure that they're covered by the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and no more than 24 hours.
2. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, and place the marinade, including the ginger and star anise, into a small saucepan. Add 2 cups of chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and place the chicken breasts into the saucepan. Let rest until the chicken breasts are just barely past pink at the center, about 10 minutes. Remove. Make broad, horizontal slices, as thin as you can, and place the chicken slices in a bowl. Chop 2 scallions very finely (white and light green parts only), and mix with chicken slices. Reserve.
3. Peel the carrots, and make long, thin diagonal slices. You should have approximately the same number of carrot slices as chicken slices. To the pan in which you cooked the chicken, add the remaining 6 tablespoons of rice-wine vinegar, the remaining 3 teaspoons of sugar, and 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts). Bring mixture to a boil, then add the carrot slices. Boil until the carrots have just lost their crunch, about 7 minutes. Remove carrots, and reserve. Continue boiling the mixture until it is reduced to a scant 1/2 cup. Strain the mixture into a small bowl. Slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil and the peanut oil, and beat until the oils are well incorporated.
4. Toss the chicken slices and carrot slices together with the dressing. Bring to room temperature (about 15 minutes), season well with salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining 2 scallions, very finely minced.
Note: If you want a more striking, more elegant presentation, arrange the carrots and chicken slices on four small plates. They look best if arranged on each plate in a circular pattern, with alternating chicken and carrot slices. Pour the sauce over the salads, distributing evenly. Wait 5 minutes and serve, garnished with chopped scallions.

This creative, light, room-temperature salad features a subtle whiff of anise. If you want more anise flavor (not everyone likes it), include the optional 5-spice powder listed below, which includes anise. By the way, the unusual technique for cooking the chicken breasts ensures moist, tender slices of chicken. Serves 4 as a first course