When I don’t have class three nights a week from 6:30 to 11 p.m. (rough, I know), I like to invite a few of my lady friends over for weeknight dinner parties. I love these dinner parties not only because I get to catch up with my girlfriends, but also because I get to try out (or make up) recipes I wouldn’t get a chance to make otherwise.
I’m sure some of you have partners who are picky about what they eat, so you know where I’m coming from. It’s not like Doug is terribly picky, but he definitely needs some kind of meat on his plate. For instance, earlier this week we were trying to decide what to make for breakfast. I, being the food nerd that I am, mentioned that I had a ton of basil that I wanted to use. To my surprise Doug shouted, “I don’t want to eat green stuff for breakfast! I want man food for breakfast!” I proceeded to make fun of him all morning for that comment, but it pretty much sums up Doug’s eating philosophy: Lots of meat, not so much green stuff.
So veggie-based dinners are pretty much out of the question with him, so I like to pull out my lighter, greener fare for the ladies.
Inspiration for this recipe came during one of my catering classes when my partner and I got assigned to make a deconstructed Waldorf salad, a classic salad first created at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in the late 1890s. Instead of serving it as a composed salad as is usually done, we made a build-your-own Waldorf salad bar for our student tasters. To turn the salad up a notch, we made our own dressing (instead of using plain mayo) and homemade candied walnuts (instead of plain toasted walnuts), and added chicken to make it a full meal. The students raved about the salad and the dressing, but we had lots of leftovers, so I brought a deconstructed salad to my best friend Laura when she cut my hair the next day.
While I didn’t see Laura eat the salad, she did send my several gushing texts about how much she loved it, so I knew I had to make it again—I just wasn’t sure when.
The opportunity appeared when I decided to throw a Ladies’ Wine and Cheese night last week—the Waldorf salad would finally have a place at my home table. Each lady brought a bottle of wine and a cheese to share, so I wanted something light to combat all that cheese and stave off the effects of the wine. In the end, the Waldorf salad was a big hit because it satisfied us when the cheese and crackers no longer could. Plus, everyone got to customize her own salad, and who doesn’t love a salad bar?
I love this salad so much that I made it again for myself the next week—and ate pretty much all of it, save for a tiny bit that Laura decided to make into a sandwich one afternoon. A Waldorf salad sandwich, you say? You betcha. Laura said it was a bit messy, but still delicious. Make this salad this week and, I promise, you’ll be craving it again the following week.
Waldorf Salad with Creamy Lemon-Honey Dressing
This recipe serves 4. If there are leftovers (or if I’m making this just for myself), I bag the leftovers individually so nothing gets soggy. This is definitely a build-right-before-you-eat salad. I make my own candied walnuts. Click here for an easy recipe for candied walnuts. Click here to download a PDF copy of this recipe.
1 c. water
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into cubes
1 c. chopped celery
1 (4-ounce) container blue cheese crumbles
1 c. red grapes, halved
1 (5-ounce) container spring mix
1 pound cooked chicken, cut into strips, hot or room temperature
1 c. candied walnuts
For creamy lemon-honey dressing:
½ c. mayonnaise or plain yogurt
1 lemon, washed and dried
1 to 2 Tbs. honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare apple. Juice the lemon into a small bowl, and then add about 1 cup of cold water to make lemon water. Add the chopped apple and give it a stir. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. The lemon water will prevent the apple from turning brown after you cut it.
Make dressing. Put the mayonnaise in a small bowl. Zest and juice the lemon into the bowl. Whisk in 1 Tbs. honey, and season with salt and pepper. Taste the dressing, and if it’s not sweet enough, add the other 1 Tbs. honey, then season to taste with salt and pepper again if needed. Move to a clean bowl for serving if you’ve made a mess.
Assemble salad. Drain the apples. Put the spring mix, grapes, celery, chicken, walnuts, blue cheese, and apples into individual bowls or arrange on a platter. Serve with the dressing and warm French bread, letting your guests build their own salads with the ingredients.