Another American Classic: The Waldorf Salad

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Everyone's heard of the famous Waldorf Salad. Conceived at the Waldorf Hotel in NYC in the 1890s, it traditionally consisted of simply apples, celery, walnuts and a mayo-based dressing. It remained a popular salad appetizer for years, coming and going back en vogue over the years with different variations and updates to serving the classic combination.

Variations include adding a protein (usually chicken or turkey), green or red grapes, and lightening up the heavy mayo-based dressing with healthier yogurt. I took a cue from both history and modern, and made up a version I think combines both without compromising the integrity of the original salad. I add chicken for substance, making this a very servable luncheon menu just perfect for a shower or light dinner with the girls. I keep the sweetness coming from carefully selected apples, and add a balance of savory with onion and celery. The dressing is half mayo and half yogurt, the tangy yogurt being balanced out perfectly with the sweetness of the honey and apple cider. I think the combinations of all the ingredients are perfectly balanced in taste, and make for a very pretty salad.

This is great in smaller portions for a fancier classic dinner party or just perfect for a bridal or baby shower, lunch, or lighter dinner. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad with Chicken
for the salad:
2 whole chicken breasts, boneless and skin less
3 Tbsp olive oil or nonstick cooking spray (such as PAM)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet apples -- such as Fuji, Gala, or Pink Lady -- cubed
3 ribs celery, chopped small
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts
1 head boston or bibb lettuce, leaves washed and left whole

for the dressing:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp good quality honey
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the chicken breasts with the olive oil (or spray them) and season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Once cooked, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting; this will let the juices redistribute and give a moister chicken. Cut the chicken against the grain into strips, and then into cubes. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 or even 3 days in advance. Conversely, you can use store-bought cooked roasted chicken breast and cube them into bite-sized pieces.

Place the apples, celery, red onion, and walnuts in a mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Set aside. Take the lettuce and portion out onto plates, about 2-3 leaves per person.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Season it with the salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle it over the apple and chicken mixture. You want the dressing to very much evenly coat the salad, but not completely drench it; you'll probably have some dressing left over. Toss the salad in the dressing to evenly coat.

To assemble, simply spoon out the chicken salad mixture into the middle of the lettuce on each plate and serve.

Make Ahead Notes:
You can cook the chicken ahead of time as stated and make the dressing up to 2 days in advance. Cover each and refrigerate until ready to assemble. You can also wash the lettuce and even portion it out onto plates a head of a dinner party, cover the plates with plastic wrap and refrigerate until right before serving.

You need to cut the apples right before serving, however, to prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown. You can technically cut them and keep them in lemon juice, but I personally find the added acidity throws off the delicate balance of the salad. Just cut them before you're ready to toss the salad and serve it.

No comments: