Waldorf Salad Baked Brie

Noah and I have been operating in a slightly crazed fashion for the past month or so, spending mornings in the kitchen trying and testing new recipes, setting up the camera for afternoon photo shoots, and manically jotting down food ideas on bits of scrap paper (the last one is primarily just me). All the while working our day jobs and attempting to maintain our somewhat desolate social lives. Why? Because we’ve discovered the frenzied world of recipe competitions. It all started one morning as I lay in bed trying to figure out how I could make money while cooking and developing recipes at home - no more clocking in and out at work, no more dealing with cranky customers, just eating ice cream at 10am (for blog research of course). I knew recipe competitions were a thing, so I googled it and came up with a great website that lists current competitions by deadline. Boom. I was hooked. That morning I even made a separate calendar on my computer just for recipe competition cutoff dates. I know. Ridiculous. And, yes I am a competitive person by nature (my brother and I used to compare our lacrosse goalie bruises to see who’s was “the best”) and yes this may become a serious addition. But for now its fun (even if we don't win every competition, sigh) plus we’re getting some great recipes and photos for Traveling Fork. It's a win-win situation! On the flip side, we’ve probably doubled our grocery bill that was already twice the normal persons budget and our fridge is literally bursting with photo shoot leftovers and experiments in the works. I will probably need to double my yoga workouts too....   

The following recipe is the upshot of our first ever entry in the recipe competition world. It was sponsored by California Walnuts in partnership with the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NYC and the challenge was to “refresh” the classic Waldorf salad. Alas, we did not win, but we got a great recipe and some beautiful pictures out of it. This would be a great dish to share at a late-summer brunch when figs are fresh in season and absolutely delicious. 

// Waldorf Salad Bake Brie // Serves 6-8
If you want something lighter, you can replace the brie with some warmed goat cheese and serve the salad and toast on the side.  But who wouldn't want brie? 

For the walnut caramel: 
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnut halves
pinch of salt

For the salad dressing:
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of anise powder 
generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped

1/2 large apple or 1 small, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 cup frisee
4-6 ripe figs, quartered
1 wheel of brie
Sliced artisan bread, toasted

1. For the walnuts, heat the sugar over medium-low heat until it starts to turn into a liquid. When the sugar is melted, quickly stir in the butter and heavy cream. the mixture will bubble a bit, but will eventually die down. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla, walnuts, and salt. Set aside. 

2. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Place the brie in a small over-safe dish such as a cast iron skillet or pie plate. Bake the brie for about 20 minutes or until very soft to the touch. Remove from oven and prepare the rest of the dish

3. To make the salad dressing, whisk together the honey, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, olive oil, anise, salt and mint

4. In a large bowl toss together the apple, celery, frisee, and salad dressing. Spoon the walnut caramel on top of the baked brie (reheat if necessary) and arrange about 1/4 of the salad over the walnuts. Top with fresh figs. Serve the remaining salad on the side (or on side plates) with toasted artisan bread.