The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one. It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896. It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel. Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).
The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.
Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.
It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.
While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well. Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese? It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit. Besides, I just like blue cheese.
A few notes:
1. I like to use a mix of apples. As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base. I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp. The flavor contrast works well.
2. I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe. It just depends what I have on hand.
3. If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise. Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor. Also, use a full-fat yogurt. Fat-free – yuk.
4. My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue. These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available. European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.
5. I don’t peel my apples. You shouldn’t either.
6. I use very little celery in my recipe. Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component. However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.
7. To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.
4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.
1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced
1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)
1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)
4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled
1 c. mayonnaise
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Cut and core the apples. I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut. With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices. Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice. Place the apples into the bowl.
2. Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit. Toss together.
3. Add the cheese and mayonnaise. Mix together until well incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce. I generally don’t. However, if you would like to, go ahead. I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.