Sometime forever ago, when a) we still received Williams-Sonoma catalogs practically every week, and b) said catalogs included lovely recipes, I clipped out a recipe for chicken salad with fennel, bell pepper and a spicy pecan dressing.
I’ve made some adaptations over time to suit our tastes, but this salad recipe has become one of our favorites. It uses ingredients I almost always have on hand: apple, red bell pepper, leftover roasted chicken, good blue cheese. You can swap in other ingredients, like pear or carrot or jicama. The pecan dressing has everything you want: great texture, bold flavor, a kick of spice.
Even better: You can package this salad in a 1-quart or 1-liter jar and take it off to work or a picnic. Or, simply toss all the ingredients together in a big bowl and pass servings at the table, alongside some good crusty bread and homemade butter.
roast chicken salad with pepper, fennel and spicy pecan dressing recipe
For the dressing: In a small skillet, combine 3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste. Toast the pecans with the spices over medium heat until they're fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove to a lidded glass jar and add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons water. Shake to combine. Add another teaspoon of water to thin the dressing if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more cayenne for heat if you'd like.
For the salad: Chop into 1/2-inch dice: half a red bell pepper, half an apple (choose your favorite), half of a medium fennel bulb. Transfer to a large bowl. Slice half a head of leaf or Romaine lettuce into thin strips and add the lettuce to the bowl. Season the vegetables with a generous pinch of salt and toss gently to combine. Add a drizzle of dressing and pecans and toss gently to coat. Top the salad with about 3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese and 1 cup sliced roasted chicken.