I am a big fan of eating without cooking. The week gets busy, and it’s nice to have a giant batch of something that I can just eat straight out of the fridge or throw into a container to take out the door. Chicken salads are a summer favorite, especially when they are heavy on crunchy fresh vegetables and nuts, with some fresh and dried fruit to add a little sweetness.
This particular recipe is great for mayo-phobes, because it relies more on yogurt for the dressing. I’m definitely not one of those! I love Chicken Waldorf Salad just because of the amazing combination of grapes and mayonnaise. Sweet and buttery always wins with me. Traditionally, though, this salad is more about the apples and walnuts.
CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD
Adapted from Eating Well
3 – 4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, to be braised or poached
4 cups chicken broth or water, for braising or poaching
Flour for dredging, if braising
Olive oil for frying, if braising
Juice and zest of one lemon
7 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
2 apples, any variety, peeled and chopped (I went with Pink Ladies this time)
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved (The market was out! Boo!)
1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden (optional)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Grapeseed or another neutral oil, for frying walnuts
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 – 1 cup (preferably Greek) yogurt, depending on how wet you want your salad
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Big pot with a lid for poaching chicken, or
Oven-safe pot with a lid for braising chicken
Tongs, if braising
Wooden spoon, if braising
2 forks, for pulling chicken
Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
Small saute pan, for walnuts
I prefer to braise my chicken, because it’s my favorite way to cook anything, but the more health conscious may want to poach it.
To poach, place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a large pot and cover with water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
For portion reference, 1 pound of raw, whole chicken breast will make about 2.5 cups pulled chicken. Yes, my recipe is HUGE, but hey, this stuff will keep for a week and I’m on the run a lot. Having something healthy ready to eat keeps me from spending a ton of money out or enjoying the perks of my day jobs too often.
So, you wanna braise those breasts instead? Start by preheating your oven to 350ºF. Heat some olive oil in an oven-safe pot with a lid over medium heat. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken breasts in salted flour and get your tongs, it’s pan-fry time!
The oil is ready when it is steaming just a little bit but not quite smoking. Place your chicken in the oil without crowding and resist the temptation to move them! No flipping, no scooting, nothing!
You may not be able to fit them all in at once, so instead fry 2-3 at a time. They are ready to flip when they no longer stick to the bottom and have that nice brown, caramelized look to them, about 4 minutes per side. Remove finished ones and put more raw guys in until they’re all crispy and brown on both sides.
Don’t worry about internal temperatures just yet; these babies have more cooking to do! Once they’ve all been browned, remove the last ones from the pan and pour in the chicken broth or water, leaving the heat on. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge all those tasty little brown bits off of the bottom of the pan and release them into the liquid. Now, place the browned chicken breasts back into the liquid, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and put that pot into the oven. 20-30 minutes later, you have some gorgeous, quick-braised chicken. They’re done with when you barely have to run a fork over the surface of one and it just falls apart.
Take those out of the liquid and put them in a mixing bowl and use two forks to shred them up. This should only take a minute; if you are exerting any real effort, your chicken is not quite done. Put it back into the oven!
The chicken will need to cool a bit before dressing, so leave it open and on the counter. When it is closer to room temperature, you can put the whole bowl into the refrigerator, uncovered.
Heat an empty, small saute pan over low while you chop up those walnuts and toss them in a little grapeseed oil. Toss them in the hot pan and flip them around until just toasted and crispy-crunchy, about 3 minutes. Taste one to see! Remove them from the pan to cool; they will burn easily if left in.
Once the chicken is cool, add the chopped apples, celery, grapes, and walnuts, as well as the lemon zest, lemon juice, and golden raisins. Mix!
In a separate bowl, whisk up the yogurt and mayonnaise and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour that over the chicken mix and work it in evenly.
Serve over your favorite greens, or as a cold sandwich, or as a hot sandwich with melted white cheddar and bacon. Or stuff it into tomatoes and eat cold or into bell peppers, cover with cheese, and let roast in the oven. Or… or…