Apple Roquefort Salad and Lemon Chicken

You should know I’ve declared neutrality in the pumpkin-spice wars. I feel there are very fine people on both sides.

Pumpkin spice usually comes with lots of sugar, which can’t be bad. I’m also one to celebrate the change from one season to the next, and pumpkin spice is a decent way to welcome autumn back. That said, on 90-degree August days, fall is still a long way off. And pumpkin spice has no standing to crowd out other excellent staples of the season.

Like apples. Now that September is here, I’ve stopped blowing my fruit budget on cherries and started setting aside funds for Honeycrisps. When the kids ask us later why there isn’t more money for college, I’ll remind them how well-fed they’ve been all these years. I’m sure they’ll understand.

Speaking of college, I’ve been riffing on this salad from a 2001 issue of Gourmet magazine since my senior year, when I lived off-campus and had to learn to feed myself. As the weather starts to cool, crisp apples paired with bacon and assertive Roquefort cheese are what my dreams are made of. Here, the complements of mustard, pumpernickel, and cranberry add a rich depth of flavor. If you never thought salad could be a comfort food, I recommend giving this one a chance to impress you.

After Tropical Depression Florence unfurled tornados and fierce storms in our neighborhood, I turned to my favorite salad for the first time this year. Although I’ve made it a one-dish meal in the past by adding wheatberries and roasted butternut squash, I kept it simple this time as show-stealing accompaniment to roasted chicken and wild rice.

Let’s be honest: When it comes to food imagery, Deb Perelman I am not. But I hope my modest visuals more helpful than nothing. In 2018, it’s hard to summon interest in a recipe without any sense of what the final product looks like.

Some people find the most interesting component of this salad to be the homemade croutons, fried in leftover bacon drippings. This time, I used thick slices of a pumpernickel bagel along with cubed slices of Wegman’s Honeycrisp apple loaf. The bagel pieces were our faves.

A key addition to the original recipe: After my croutons toast in the pan, I toss them in cinnamon sugar while they’re still warm. (If I’m honest, I think a pumpkin-spice blend could be interesting, too. Don’t @ me.)

I’ll let the original recipe be your guide, with just a few comments: I (ahem) significantly increase the amount of bacon, use any mix of lettuce that feels right in the moment, and combine two types of apples: One Granny Smith, and one Honeycrisp or other supersweet variety. I also add a dash of allspice to my dressing.

As a bonus, here’s a foolproof and simple recipe for crispy, oven-roasted chicken thighs. This one reliably supports the pretense that we’ve responsibly planned a nice weeknight dinner, you know, in advance. It incorporates lemon and thyme, but the herbs are adaptable – or optional, if you forgot to water your herb garden this summer.

The method: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange seasoned chicken pieces skin-down on a cold ovenproof skillet, then set the heat to medium. As the pan and oven heat up, leave the chicken alone to brown for a full 15 minutes. Have faith; don’t touch them. When time’s up, turn the pieces over for the first time, adorn them with a shiny lemon slice and maybe some thyme fronds, and then slide the whole skillet into the oven to roast for 13-15 minutes. Enjoy, marveling at how little effort was required.

Categories: Food, Recipes

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