Virginia Willis’ Composed Salad for Spring

This salad does seem like a quite a bit of work, two pots on the stove and one in the oven. Admittedly, it does not adhere to Willis’ belief to make it easy for the home cook! But it’s so good we think it’s worth the extra effort. The chicken could easily be baked, as well, or even pulled off of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. The main idea is that there is a selection of both fresh and cooked spring vegetables along with lettuce. This composed salad is bright and delicious.

Serves 6 to 8

Virginia Willis’ Composed Salad for Spring



  • 1 pound small potatoes, halved
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
  • 1 pound asparagus, stem ends trimmed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, stem ends trimmed
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • ½ pound radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 bunches green onions, roots and green ends freshly trimmed
  • 6 handfuls of green leaf lettuce
  • 3 hard cooked eggs, peeled
  • Shallot Vinaigrette, recipe follows
  • Parsley
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick silicone baking mat.

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, bring water, wine, and bay leaf to a boil. Add chicken and reduce heat to simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and let simmer for 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let chicken stand in cooking liquid, covered, until the juices run clear when pricked with a knife, about 10 minutes. Drain chicken and slice breasts on the diagonal 1/4-inch thick. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, place the asparagus, mushrooms, and carrots on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit of oil and shake to coat the vegetables. Transfer to the oven and cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Once all the components have cooked, assemble the salad on a large platter. Pour over the dressing to coat. Top with finely sieved or chopped egg. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe by Virginia Willis / Photograph by Angie Mosier