There are a lot of things to love about September. The water is still warm. The roads are empty. The windows are open all day, but the nights are cool. The cucumbers and tomatoes and corn and green beans are still rolling in, and the meals taste like summer. There is time for fishing and bicycling downtown, for trips to the playground, slowly reclaimed by local kids. The apples show up, and it is nice to be able to roast a chicken again.
We get our birds from my friend Drew. I met him when we worked nights together, when he was 19 and still in school. He was just learning about farming, determined to fill the big shoes his uncle and grandfather would one day be leaving. In between polishing silverware and wondering when table 62 might gather the hutzpah to get up and go, we’d talk about his dreams. He wanted to raise chickens, the way the innovative Virginia farmer Joel Salatin did, on fresh green pasture in moveable cages.
Now 24, Drew is making a living that way. He earned an associate degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and a bachelor of science degree in Sustainable Food and Farming from UMASS Amherst, and every Friday at the Truro post office, he picks up a new batch of baby chicks. They come home to the farm and grow for two months, and get big enough for the table on a diet of grass, sunshine, and water.
We get one most weeks. They’re small birds—three and a half, sometimes four pounds—but they make a perfect meal for our little family. We roast them and stuff them and pick the bones clean, then throw the carcass in a pot for soup.
Every now and then, though, I do something different such as chicken enchiladas or oven-fried chicken the way my grandmother used to make and in apple season, chicken Waldorf salad.
My mother is a big fan of Waldorf salad. To me, it tastes like childhood. She makes it with yogurt, apples, raisins, and walnuts, and she often whips up a batch for Saturday morning breakfasts. I like mine with grapes and tarragon and a good handful of chicken. It’s a good way to use up the leftovers—the white breast meat, especially—after you’ve pulled off the thighs and eaten the wings clean.
And this time of year, it makes the perfect picnic salad. We pack a few crackers, a jar of homemade bread-and-butter pickles, and we’re out the door and on our way.
CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD RECIPE
The recipe I use is adapted from Amy Traverso’s The Apple Lover’s Cookbook—a compendium of recipes for all things apple. It’s quite different from your classic Waldorf—not so sweet, and much more filling. I especially like the addition of fresh tarragon and red grapes.
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
- 1 teaspoon honey
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1/2 pound cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
- 1 apple, diced
- Whisk together the yogurt, mayonaise, tarragon, honey, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, and shallot to make the dressing. Set aside.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a serving bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve at once. If you’re not planning to eat right away, keep the dressing and the salad ingredients separate until just before serving. The dressing can be made several days in advance—the flavors will get better as it sits.