Grapes are no strangers in chicken salad, adding sweetness and a burst of freshness to what can often be a rich, heavy dish. In Ripe, Nigel Slater riffs on this combination in A Salad of Game, Grapes, and Verjuice, upping the salad's grape quotient by using verjuice—the juice of unripe grapes—in the vinaigrette dressing. Verjuice adds mellow, slightly musky sourness, and is generally used in leu of vinegar, lemon juice, or wine in salad dressings and sauces. It's a little hard to find, but worth including for its intriguing complexity. In addition to the verjuice, Slater complements the grapes with bitter, crunchy radicchio; thinly sliced celery; and earthy toasted walnuts.
Slater does not limit the salad to chicken; indeed, as the name suggests he finds all manner of game and poultry appropriate. Instead of choosing the meat outright, he suggests using any leftovers available—a huge plus in my book, as I always tend to have leftover bits and pieces of roast chicken or turkey hanging out in the fridge.
Why I picked this recipe: I've eaten the grape-chicken salad combination before, but never with mysterious, musky verjuice.
What worked: The ratio of chicken, fruit, and vegetables was perfect; each bite of salad was simultaneously sweet, rich, juicy, and crisp.
What didn't: Verjuice doesn't lend quite the punch of vinegar or lemon juice. Without extra acid or salt, the salad tasted a bit flat.
Suggested Tweaks: I used cold roast chicken when making the salad, but as Slater suggests, any type of chilled leftover poultry would work well. A gamier meat such as duck or quail would be especially interesting.
Reprinted with permission from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater. Copyright 2010, 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- Yield:serves 2
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:20 minutes
- 14 ounces cold roast game or chicken meat
- 2 handfuls grapes
- 1 large stalk celery
- 2 tablespoons walnut halves
- A couple of handfuls radicchio or other bitter leaves
- For the Dressing
- 5 tablespoons verjuice
- 3 or 4 little sprigs thyme
- 1 teaspoon smooth, mild mustard
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
To make the dressing, pour the verjuice into a small mixing bowl. Pull the thyme leaves from their stalks and chop them finely, then add them to the verjuice, together with a good pinch of salt, a little black pepper, and the mustard. Pour in the olive oil, beating with a fork or tiny whisk.
Keeping the meat in large strips and chunks, stir it into the dressing. Halve the grapes and flick out their seeds with the point of a knife. Finely slice the celery. Add the grapes and celery to the meat and dressing.
Toast the walnut halves for a couple of minutes in a shallow pan. Rinse the salad leaves. Toss gently with the rest of the ingredients and divide between two plates.