Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Copycat Recipe: Attempting Cracker Barrel's Applefest Grilled Chicken Salad

This past fall, Cracker Barrel restaurant introduced a limited time menu called Applefest. All of the dishes featured apples in some form, and all of them looked really good. I was able to sample a few of the dishes from this special menu, since I tend to eat at Cracker Barrel a couple of times a month. One of the items I enjoyed most was their Applefest Grilled Chicken Salad, which was a marinated grilled chicken breast served atop a bed of lettuce, with chunks of gorgeous red crisp Gala apples, crisp bacon, candied pecans, a generous sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles, and served with a sweet and tangy apple cider vinaigrette on the side. It was absolutely delicious and a refreshing dinner. It also looked beautiful when they presented it, with the little chunks of apples all around the rim of the plate.

What you see pictured above is my attempt to recreate the recipe at home. The salad was very easy to get right, since the basic elements were pretty standard. I did try to make an apple cider vinaigrette clone, but my first attempt was not very successful. I tried mixing up some canola oil, apple cider, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and a bit of cinnamon. This sounded like a good plan to me, but unfortunately I got my proportions a bit off as I was paying more attention to the grumbling in my tummy than I was to careful dressing concoctions. The dressing tasted good, but was not quite what I had tasted at the restaurant. Hopefully I will be able to nail the recipe and update this in the future. However, in the meantime, the raspberry walnut salad dressing tasted really nice with this salad. I think any of the fruitier, sweeter salad dressings would go equally well.

I also added a new feature on my blog... off to the top right side there is now a weekly poll. This week it is about Cracker Barrel recipes, but the topics will change as the mood strikes me. I will try to prepare the selection with the highest votes.

Copycat Cracker Barrel Applefest Grilled Chicken Salad
(serves 2)

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup raspberry walnut salad dressing (roughly, I didn't measure)
1 bag mixed salad greens (iceberg, radish, carrot, romaine)
2 firm Gala apples (or another crisp sweet-tart red eating apple), cut into chunks
lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained
2 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp Maple Glazed pecans, chopped (or any glazed/candied pecan)
apple cider vinaigrette or raspberry walnut salad dressing, to taste

Place about 1/2 cup or so of salad dressing into a ziptop type plastic bag along with the chicken, seal, and smoosh the sealed bag to coat chicken pieces evenly. Marinate in the fridge overnight. Grill until cooked all the way through on an indoor grill, thin slice and set aside, keeping warm.

Divide salad greens between two plates. Set the apple chunks in a ring all around the outer edges of each plate, red skin side facing outward. Sprinkle nuts over the salad. Place the chicken slices in the center, then sprinkle blue cheese crumbles over the top (I had this backwards in the photo). Break each piece of crispy bacon in half or crumble it up if you prefer, and place over the top of the salad. Serve with apple cider vinaigrette or another fruity, sweet salad dressing of your choice on the side.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much! My family & I go to Cracker Barrel every Wednesday night after church. I ordered the Applefest Salad EVERY time while it was available. As you can imagine, I was very sad when it discontinued. I have been searching for something even remotely close to it ever since. I purchased all the ingredients today (minus the apple cider vinaigrette due to my grocery budget & I substituted bacon bits for freshly cooked bacon because this will be my lazy meal) & can't wait to try it out!