The Evolution Of Waldorf Salad

Grand Hotels have been around for so long that they have come to be associated with particular dishes.  The Savoy in London claims to have introduced Peach Melba and melba toast.   Palmer House in Chicago takes credit for the brownie. Not to be outdone, the Waldorf Astoria lays claim to Eggs Benedict, thousand island dressing, and, of course, the Waldorf salad.

As originally conceived, the Waldorf salad was a mixture of apple, lettuce, celery, and walnuts bound with mayonnaise.  I used the recipe below and found it a refreshing change from the Caesar salads which have taken over the universe.

Kosher chef Levana suggests multiple variations to the Waldorf salad.  Her core recipe eliminates the lettuce and spices up the dressing with mustard and horseradish.

The Waldorf Astoria itself now serves a much more healthful version of the Waldorf salad.  It’s quite labor intensive and impossible to make at home without a mandoline.  Greens are reduced to an afterthought; yogurt dressing substitutes for the heavy mayo; and celery root replaces celery.  Both the celery root and apple are cut into matchsticks.  The walnuts are spiced.

When Cole Porter wrote, “You’re the top/you’re a Waldorf salad,” he was writing about a very different dish.  But I think Cole would have approved the new look and agreed that the twenty-first century version of the Waldorf salad deserves its place in his immortal lyrics.


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