What’s in a Waldorf salad?
The Waldorf salad is one of the quintessential New York dishes, and has been enjoyed the world-over since its inception in the late 19th century. The Waldorf salad could only have been created in a place like New York. After all, it’s eccentric, brash, daring, fruity and international. Above all, it really works. The traditional Waldorf salad can be made by doing the following: Start out with a small, crispy bed of lettuce. To this, add chopped walnuts, apple and celery, dressed in mayonnaise. Grapes are often added too. To add pizzazz, it’s acceptable to add a dash of lime juice, and a little salt and pepper. The Waldorf salad is commonly served as a starter. In our opinion, it goes does well with a cold glass of dry white wine.
How was the Waldorf salad invented?
Like a lot of famous recipes, the history of the Waldorf salad is a slightly nebulous. The dish was created between 1893 and 1896 at the newly-opened Waldorf Hotel on Park Avenue (it’s now the Waldorf-Astoria). Oscar Tschirky was the maître d’hôtel rather than the chef, but it was he who invented the salad in its original guise. By 1896, the recipe for Waldorf salad was published in Tschirky’s cookbook Oscar of the Waldorf. Here, he instructs: “Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.” Interestingly, there is no mention of walnuts. These weren’t added until roughly 10 years later. Sometimes perfection takes a while.
A twist on the original Waldorf
As with all the best salads (and cocktails, come to mention it), the Waldorf is often made with slight variations. As already mentioned, walnuts, grapes and lettuce were later additions to the dish as we know it today. Some people have taken it further. The Old Foodie blog claims some cooks used to sprinkle in orange rind. Others like to bulk out the salad and transform it into a main dish by adding chicken or turkey. Avocados, pears, grapefruit, and even maraschino cherries are can be incorporated too. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a fruit salad. Oh, and if you’re dieting, try using natural yoghurt instead of mayo.
You know your salad has made it big when it gets name-checked in popular culture. In 1934, Cole Porter raved about it in his tune You’re the Top. Meanwhile, in the UK, the John Cleese sitcom Fawlty Towers featured an episode entitled Waldorf Salad. In it, an American tourist demands Cleese’s hotel manager character serve him a Waldorf salad. At this, Cleese replies that his hotel is “out of Waldorfs”.