Thanksgiving Recipes ~ Wild Rice & Cranberry Salad with Candied Walnuts and Tarragon

Thanksgiving is the Super bowl of holidays for cooks everywhere.  There is so much planning, shopping, recipe testing, and decorating all for that one meal.  Before we even begin to cook the “big meal” we have the pre game show – appetizers and cocktails to keep everyone happy while you cook a giant bird that ends up tasting well… like turkey. Don’t let my football talk fool you into to thinking I know anything about the game.  I’m just barely aware that football is on television during Thanksgiving and that it has something to do with the teams that play at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, right?   It’s too early in the month to start talking about my utter disdain lack of enthusiasm for cooking turkeys on Thanksgiving, so for now let’s just talk cranberries. Thanksgiving can be a bit overwhelming even for seasoned chefs, maybe that’s why Americans have resorted to opening a can when it comes to the cranberries.  It’s almost become a tradition to have a bowl of jiggly wiggly cranberry sauce on the table with the ring indentation still intact.   I have to admit, I love the stuff.  Give me a roll with a slab of butter and a nice glob of cranberries and I’ll call it Thanksgiving.

This is a great fall salad that is made with cranberries and tossed in cranberry vinaigrette.  It sounds odd with the rice and raw vegetables, believe me I know, but it’s incredibly flavorful and full of texture with a unique sweet and savory flavor balance. Because it’s made without lettuce and served cold or at room temperature, it is a perfect “do-ahead” salad for your holiday table.  Try serving salad in a martini glass or wide mouth goblet – remember presentation is everything, your guests will be so impressed – it will be a sure goal, homerun, touchdown.

How will you serve cranberries this holiday season?

 Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad with Candied Walnuts
Serves 8-10

1 ½ cups uncooked wild rice
6 -7 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
6 cups cooked chicken breast or turkey- cut into medium dice
3 cups carrots – thinly sliced on the bias
2 cups celery – thinly sliced on the bias
¾ cup green onions – sliced thinly on the bias
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup dried soft cranberries
1 cup candied walnuts

  • In a large sauce pot bring the rice to a rolling boil with the salt- cook for about 45 minutes or until rice splits.
  • Remove from the heat and pour into a strainer- allow to cool.
  • In a large bowl combine cooled rice, chicken, carrots, celery, onions, tarragon, and cranberries.
  • Toss with cranberry vinaigrette a little at a time to coat evenly – to taste.
  • Top with candied walnuts

Cranberry Vinaigrette

½ cup canned cranberry
1 Tablespoon shallot- chopped
1 small clove of garlic – minced
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar or tarragon vinegar
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup walnut oil
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper

  • Combine all ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake well – chill

Cranberries Around the Web

15 comments… add one
  • Steve November 2, 2010, 11:12 am

    Another winner. I like the additon of tarragon – my favorite herb. Can't wait to try this. Again, amazing photos.

  • Christina November 2, 2010, 12:57 pm

    That looks delicious! I'm all about the sides on Thanksgiving, myself. Then I use leftover turkey to make turkey noodle soup. The last few years I've been making cranberry sauce with a splash of Grand Marnier added as the finishing touch. Easy and festive.

  • High Plains Drifters November 2, 2010, 7:03 pm

    We make a cranberry chutney that I believe came from one of the Denver Junior League cookbooks. Fun to make with kids, who love watching the cranberries pop. Cranberries, sugar, spice (ginger, cinnamon, cardamon), onion, walnuts or pecans, and a bit of cayenne if you want.

    [on cranberries] The Indians and English use them much, boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meat, and it is a delicate sauce.
    —John Josselyn, while visiting New England in 1663

  • marla {family fresh cooking} November 3, 2010, 2:39 am

    Louise your cranberry salad looks great. It is a perfect meal for any time & very well balanced. The cranberry dressing you created sounds yummy although you would really have to force me to buy that canned stuff. I'll smash the real ones into a pulp & then all the other ingredients. xo

  • Kim November 3, 2010, 5:31 am

    The salad looks beautiful!

    I'm actually going to see if I can "come up" with a creative and inventive use for cranberries this year. The standard is getting a liiiittttllllee too repetitive.

    Thank you so much for your entertaining tip! You can't just cook, you need to decorate, sew, paint and become the next generation Martha Stewart!!!


  • Sippity Sup November 3, 2010, 3:22 pm

    This would add a touch of elegance to Thanksgiving. And while it's not quite the same it does remind me a of a cranberry salad my mom used to make at Thanksgiving. Hers had veggies and nuts in it (celery and walnuts and orange peel) all chopped up small and tossed with wild rice. She quit making it because we (dumb) kids hated the orange peel. Now that she has passed I would so love to get my hands on that recipe, but sadly I can't find where she may have written it down. Thanks for the memory though! GREG

  • Lana November 4, 2010, 6:37 am

    I have fought for 10 years against Husband's Thanksgiving ideas. His mother was not a good good and still it takes him back to childhood, I guess. Now I think I have convinced him I can pull a Southern Thanksgiving with the dishes that would actually taste great.
    The biggest problem I have is turkey – he thinks it's always dry.
    Cranberry sauce? I make my own for myself and Husband (he will share the canned jellied, and only jellied stuff with our eldest).
    I am very excited about this salad. I love using cranberries in salads – their tartness adds wonderful balance to so many other tastes.
    And, thanks for the tips. Always appreciated:)

  • Quit Eating Out November 4, 2010, 3:26 pm

    Your photos are amazing… as are your recipes. I cannot seriously believe how close we are to Thanksgiving. I'm in the planning my menu process and this sounds so great to add as an unexpected dish. Thanks for sharing!

  • Joanne November 4, 2010, 6:36 pm

    I have to admit, I'm definitely nervous about the big day but mainly because my family is full of seriously picky eaters. This salad looks awesome though! I will make a batch to eat while pondering what exactly I'm going to be making….

  • Renee Fontes November 5, 2010, 4:44 pm

    Wow, which one is mine!

    Louise,I love the presentation in the glass, very nice for ladies lunch(oh sorry to the men,I didn't mean to imply that you don't like dainty dishes) Looks so fresh and inviting!

    I bet it would go well with grilled cheese sandwich!

  • Quay Po Cooks November 7, 2010, 3:07 pm

    Outstanding photography! The salad is so colorful and inviting! Love the presentation! Will make this for Thanksgiving for sure!

  • Rowie November 13, 2010, 10:59 pm

    Beautiful colors and photography! Sounds delicious!

  • Feast on the Cheap November 15, 2010, 5:39 pm

    I love wild rice salads – they always make such a pretty presentation. My mom makes something kinda-sorta similar with montrachet, it's been a family favorite for years.

    And speaking of cranberries, we just added a Cranberry Nut Bread to our site… 'Tis the season after all!

  • December 13, 2010, 4:03 am

    that looks so delicious and your photography is incredible !

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