I've never been a big fan of the Thanksgiving meal because it seems like all the food is just hot and mushy. My favorite things on Thanksgiving day are the lefse with butter and sugar, my grandma's cranberry sauce, and Boujolais Nouveau. I compensate for my distaste of potatoes and turkey and stuffing with extra quantities of "The Booj" as my bro Nick calls it.
However, if this salad were served at Thanksgiving I would have a new favorite side dish. Unfortunately, the crowd that gathers at my T-Day celebration isn't much receptive to anything that breaks with tradition. So, I adapted this side dish into a main course entree that I will enjoy all next week for lunch. If your Turkey Day crowd can handle it, I highly recommend omitting the chicken and adding this beautiful and tasty dish to your feast. It's got great crunch from the celery and sweetness from the craisins. The best part is that it's totally lean, no mayo at all - just yogurt or buttermilk to make the tangy and creamy lemony dressing.
Thanksgiving Wild Rice Salad (adapted from the New York Times)
1 quart water
1 cup wild rice
salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
1-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (optional - use only if serving as a main dish)
3-4 celery stalks, sliced thin
handful chopped flat leaf parsley
Bring the water to a boil, add salt to taste and wild rice. Lower heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes. Drain and toss with the other ingredients.
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, grated on a microplane
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used yogurt)
Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss with wild rice mixture. Add more salt or pepper to taste.
I assume this would go fabulously with a couple bottles of "The Booj."
NOTE: I want to let you know this is one of those salads that get BETTER after sitting in the fridge overnight. The lemon flavor intensifies and settles into the rice to make it a party on your tongue.