I know what you're thinking. What does the Waldorf Salad, Basil Fawlty's nemesis from the eponymous Fawlty Towers episode, have to do with Switzerland?
The recently published Schweizer Küchengeheimnisse (Swiss Culinary Secrets) by Martin Dahinden outlines the Swiss connection to this salad, along with the uncountable contributions that Switzerland has made to the culinary landscape.
It all started with a young Swiss man from La Chaux-de-Fonds named Oscar Tschirky. Upon leaving his native land, he settled in New York City and eventually became the maître d' of the legendary Manhattan restaurant Delmonico's (which, funnily enough, was founded by two Swiss brothers from Ticino). Eventually he moved on to the famous Waldorf-Astoria and earned the moniker Oscar of the Waldorf.
Despite never having worked as a chef, he is still credited with creating the famed Waldorf Salad, and even put out a large cookbook under his nickname.
Although many of the recipes were popular, it was really the Waldorf Salad with the simple ingredients of celery, apples and mayonnaise, and later walnuts and grapes, that captured the imagination of Americans and they added it to their culinary canon.
It is such a recognizable American dish that it became the perfect punchline to the brilliant Fawlty Towers episode. If you haven't seen it, you must.
Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apple be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.
A recipe for the ages.
I wanted to try something a little different, so I (mostly) followed a recipe for what they serve today at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, found here, though I skipped the black winter truffles... It has the same basic ingredients with a lighter sauce (no mayo), and super delicious and addictive candied walnuts that we devoured most of before they could be used as the salad garnish.
1 egg white
dash each salt, pepper, paprika, anise, chili peppers
130g walnut halves
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / gas mark 4.
Whisk together the egg white and sugar until you get a thick mass. Whisk in the spice mix. Stir in the walnuts.
Spread the nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden.
150g plain yogurt
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper
Whisk together the yogurt, crème fraîche, and lemon juice. Slowly pour in the oil while still whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 celery root (celeriac), peeled
2 sour apples
2 sweet apples
Using a mandolin or grater, grate the celery root and apples together in a bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Press the salad into ramekins.
Red currants (optional)
Fill your plate with lettuce, then overturn the ramekins on the lettuce bed. Strew with walnuts, grapes, and red currants.
- Of course, you don't have to mess around with the ramekin, the salad is just as delicious in a heap on the lettuce.
- As for the currants, we had some around and they look really pretty, but are by no means essential.