Since beer doesn’t really count as “favorite picnic food,” here’s a sweet and savory chicken salad that’s guaranteed to stand out in a sea of side dishes.
Waldorf Chicken Salad Wraps in Honeyed Tortillas
Perfectly balanced sweet and savory chicken salad.
I went to college in the South, and it wasn’t really the weekend until someone busted out their grill or smoker and got some BBQ going (or until someone set a recliner on fire and tried to jump it in a stolen scooter over a home-made ramp, but that’s a story for another time). The star of the BBQ show was always the meat, and we had our fair share of delicious pulled pork, ribs and brisket but, for my money, the best part of the BBQ was always the side dishes (and the beer, but we’re talking food at the moment). Sides included everything from casseroles to cornbread to biscuits, but nobody – and I mean nobody – does side salads like the South does, and there are about a million different kinds (cue Bubba Blue impression): there’s macaroni salad, potato salad, broccoli and raisin salad (my personal fave), tuna salad, egg salad and – of course – the classic chicken salad.
I really love chicken salad, but I’m kind of particular about it, so I rarely buy it from the store regardless of whether it’s for myself or I’m planning to bring it somewhere. I find that store-bought chicken salad is usually over-mayonnaised, which means there’s typically not a ton of flavor coming through (and when there are fresh herbs and flavor, it’s usually tarragon overload – I use tarragon in my recipe, but I believe the trick is to keep that particular flavor on the more subtle side). I also find that the store-bought stuff can be a bit skimpy with the chicken, and I like my chicken salad to have nice, bite-sized pieces of tender chicken throughout, as opposed to fillers like celery, onion or fruit, depending on the type of salad you’re making.
Speaking of the addition of fruit to chicken salad, the Waldorf chicken salad (which got its name due to its being created by the Maitre d’hotel of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York) traditionally includes apples, and I can’t find anything to suggest that it wasn’t the first widely used recipe for chicken salad to include fruit, so we’re gonna go ahead say that it was. The classic Waldorf chicken salad recipe included only three other ingredients (in addition to the apple): chicken, celery and mayonnaise. The traditional recipe has been updated and reinvented countless times, and my personal take on it adds some fresh herbs for flavor, as well as grapes and almonds, for texture and crunch.
The last personal spin I put on this delicious salad is to add honey to my wrap before I add the filling and roll it up. I find that the honey adds just the right touch of earthy sweetness to cut through the richness of the mayonnaise and balance the sweetness of the fruit. This is a perfect salad to take to a picnic or pot luck, and it will keep well in the fridge for about a week, so it’s great to have on hand for a quick lunch. Here’s how I make it:
3 medium/ large chicken breasts
1 tsbp peppercorn
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 granny smith (green) apple, diced
1.5 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise (the full fat stuff)*
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
juice from half a lemon
Poach the chicken with the peppercorn, garlic and tarragon. When the chicken is done, remove it from the poaching liquid and chop into bite-size pieces.
While the chicken is cooking, add the grapes, almonds, apple and oregano to a large mixing bowl. Prepare the dressing by mixing the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir well to incorporate dressing ingredients.
Add the chicken and dressing to the grapes, apple, almonds and oregano. Stir well to combine. Chill and serve cold inside whole wheat tortillas or sandwich wraps slathered with honey.
*You could make this recipe with half mayo and half plain Greek yogurt if you’re looking to try something a bit more health-conscious. I actually originally intended to do just that for this batch, but my yogurt didn’t make it from the store to my cabinets (can’t wait until my mom finds a nice, hot container of yogurt under the seat in her car in a few weeks), so I was forced to use mayo exclusively, which was absolutely delicious in any event. Low fat mayo would be a fine substitute as well, but I would strongly suggest that you don’t sub-in Miracle Whip – I’m told it has its place, but I have yet to find it, and this salad sure as heck isn’t one of them.