The iconic Waldorf salad, so named for the hotel at which it first made an appearance, has morphed from its humble beginnings of apples, celery and mayonnaise. The Waldorf-Astoria's official 2014 version features such additions as candied nuts, celery root and microgreens. For more than 100 years, chefs and home cooks have tweaked the recipe, as well, to include proteins, sour cream and even beans.
The original Waldorf salad consisted of equal parts chopped celery and apples, dressed with mayonnaise. The salad was a creation of the New York City hotel's maître d', Oscar Tschirky, who, in 1896 came up with the combination on the spot in response to a request from a guest. The salad evolved to include walnuts, grapes and a more sophisticated lemony-sour cream dressing. On the East Coast, this version of the salad is a regular part of many Thanksgiving feasts.
The New Classic
To create the classic Waldorf salad, mix together toasted, chopped walnuts, chopped apples, diced celery and halved grapes. Make a dressing of sour cream or yogurt, Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients with the dressing, and serve the creamy salad over a bed of Bibb or butter lettuce. Substitute creme fraiche or a vegan mayonnaise for the sour cream or yogurt in the dressing, if you like.
Add cooked chicken or chickpeas to the celery and apple mixture to create a light lunch or dinner entree. Mark Peel of "Food and Wine" magazine uses the original salad as inspiration to toss celery and apple with frisee, romaine, radishes, raisins and a lemon-walnut vinaigrette. Play around with how the ingredients are presented -- mix bite-size pieces of lettuce with the celery, apples and dressing instead of using lettuce as a bed. Serve the creamy mixture in a hollowed-out apple, or chop the apples into matchsticks instead of cubes.
The Waldorf-Astoria's Updated Version
The 2014 executive chef of the Waldorf-Astoria, David Garcelon, makes the Waldorf salad with candied walnuts spiced with paprika, cayenne, fennel and coriander. He blends together yogurt and creme fraiche with lemon juice, walnut oil and winter truffles, and tosses the dressing with matchsticks of raw celery root, granny smith and gala apples, and red grapes. The salad is served with a garnish of microgreens, with the candied walnuts scattered on top.