Faux Waldorf

After my recent so-so evaluation of Jane Grigson’s braised chicory in cream for The Cookbook Guru, here is my alternative using this veg in its raw state.

My version is simply a variation on the well-known Waldorf salad, named after the New York city luxury Waldorf hotel (later renamed the Waldorf-Astoria). The salad was created in the late 19th century by the famed Swiss chef employed at the Waldorf, Oscar Tschirky who is also credited with creating Eggs Benedict and a number of other culinary delights. He penned The Cookbook by Oscar of The Waldorf, published in 1896, available as a free download through the Internet Archive (just click on the book’s title for the link). There is quite a good photo of the author – a late 19th century celebrity chef – just opposite the title page.

oscar_tchirky

However, Waldorf Salad will always be enshrined in my mind with the episode from that classic British comedy series, Fawlty Towers. It all begins with an American guest, Mr Hamilton, at a dysfunctionally run hotel in the British seaside town of Torquay. When Mr Hamilton asks for a Waldorf salad, the rather snobby innkeeper, Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese), rather than admit his ignorance, responses with an emphatic statement that they were all out of waldorfs. But, faced with Mr Hamilton’s continued determination to have his Waldorf salad, Basil is sent into a tizzy of finding the ingredients for this unknown “foreign” food, which you can see in the short clip from YouTube below. Of course, there is much more subtle comedy to the episode than my description, due to both the excellent script and the acting of the highly talented cast. Well worth watching – as are all the Fawlty Tower episodes. Our DVDs have certainly seen a lot of use with repeated viewings.

A Waldorf salad, as a rather exasperated and red-faced Mr Hamilton shouts to Basil Fawlty, consists of celery, apple, grape and walnut in a mayonnaise dressing. But, if you look at Oscar Tschirky’s original recipe (in the image below), it had only three ingredients: apples, celery and mayonnaise.

waldorf_original

I knew this salad, growing up in the US, as apple, celery and walnut in a creamy (mayonnaise-based) blue cheese dressing. In fact, it is still a popular salad, of which numerous variations have been created – just do a google search and you will see what I mean. The one below is my variation on the theme.

chicory_waldorf

Chicory “Waldorf” Salad
The primary difference between my variation and a true Waldorf salad is the substitution of chicory for celery. And, in defence of Jane Grigson, I must say she indicates in her Vegetable Book that chicory can be used in place of celery in a Waldorf salad. She also provides the recipe for a chicory Waldorf-like salad in her book, Good Things, combining chicory with apples, walnuts, raisins, and a mild cheese, dressed with a mustard-flavoured mayonnaise. My variation, however, also substitutes the mayonnaise for a lighter Greek yogurt-based dressing which includes that British king of blue-veined cheeses, Stilton.

Serves 4

  • 2 large chicory heads
  • 1 crisp dessert apple
  • 40g walnut halves (or substitute a small handful of sunflower seeds for a nut-less version)

Clean and dry the chicory heads. Remove the very end of the core, separating the outer leaves. Continue cutting and peeling away leaves until the small centre leaves have been exposed.

chicory_leaves

Slice the leaves and the small remaining core into thin slices. Place into your salad bowl. Peel and core the apple. Cut into quarters, then each quarter in half before slicing into small pieces. Add these to the chicory.

Chop half the walnuts into rough chunks, leaving the other half whole. Set these aside while you make the dressing.

Blue Cheese Dressing
Although I prefer to use Stilton, any good quality blue cheese such as Rougfort or Gorgonzola Piccante can be substituted. It should be crumbly rather than creamy.

  • 50g Stilton (or other blue cheese)
  • 100g Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality (preferably organic) cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Crumble the blue cheese and add with the other ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

blue_cheese_dressing

With a fork, stir and mash the cheese into the yogurt until the dressing is smooth, but still with a few small chunks of cheese.

Fold the dressing into the chopped chicory and apple. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, decorate the the whole ones and serve.

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17 comments

  1. Waldorf salad made with four basic ingredients was one of my Mum’s party pieces ( walnuts were an extravagance) Sometimes she added cheese, usually processed cheddar, but I bet stilton really makes the waldorf and chicory sing. I’m the only person I know who is aggravated by John Cleese, love all the other characters in Fawlty Towers but I don’t find Basil funny, at all!

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    • You are right – Basil is absolutely unlikable and irritating. I suspect Cleese designed his character to be that way. It is always satisfying to see him get hoist with his own petard. And, yes, Stilton really makes the chicory and apple sing!

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  2. i am glad to find others who don’t like Basil Fawlty. i just can’t stand that show and i can’t stand john cleese. aside from that, this salad looks very tasty. i made something similar the other night but with broccoli rather than chicory- which we call endive here in australia.

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    • Well, if we all liked the same things, it would be a dull world. Though not a particular fan of Cleese (my least favourite of the Monty Python crew), I do like Fawlty Towers. But, you are right, the salad is good. In the US it is also called endive, or more specifically Belgian endive to distinguish it from the true endives that are leafy and green.

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    • I love purslane – such an old-fashioned green that was vastly popular here in Victorian times, but has since fell out of use. I was introduced to it in Greece where they use it as one of the few summer greens for salads (too hot to grow many lettuces). We need to revive it. I can tell that it would make a splendid Waldorf-like salad. Thanks for the idea!

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  3. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    From cooked chicory direct from Grigson, Debi and My Kitchen Witch has branched out and tried a new version of an old classic, the Waldorf Salad. A definite delicious twist on an old favorite and a great read.

    Happy Reading and Happy Cooking

    Leah

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  4. Love Fawlty Towers, one of my Dads fave shows. (Dad does resemble John Cleese, just a little.) In a remarkable bit of waldorf kismet, I have just returned from a girly weekend away where someone was asking what was in a Waldorf salad. We learnt it at cooking school and I always thought it was a little odd yet delicious. I had forgotten about the grapes but I don’t remember if we included them. This is a great wee version with the chicory and blue cheese.

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    • Oooh! I am so glad that someone appreciates the wicked satire of Fawlty Towers! Irreverent and funny. Fancy you discussing Waldorf salad this past weekend. There are so many variations out there that isn’t any one list of ingredients. Apples for sure, but everything else? Chicory or celery, or one the comments on the post substituted purslane, others with different types of cheese, creamy or not creamy dressing… You name it, I’m sure its been tried.

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  5. I love Waldorf salad, and that touch of bitterness from the chicory (aka witlof) would be fantastic. A pity they are usually so expensive here…you didn’t touch on that in your previous post, but as well as having a different name here, they are also usually very pricy 😦

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    • Yes, a pity they are expensive in Australia. I guess they have to be imported? Luckily, we do get them at more reasonable prices. The veg is certainly good as a showpiece when the leaves are separated as part of a vegetable platter for dipping. A little goes a long way here.

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    • I agree! The chicory version of a Waldorf salad is much better and adds a bit of crunchy bitterness to offset the sweetness of the apple. I’ve not tried it with sour cream – sounds good. Might try that next or perhaps crème fraîche.

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