Waldorf Chicken Salad

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Do you ever have one of those days where you get home from work, dog tired, and realize "Crap. I gotta make dinner."?
I'm sure you do.
Funny story about that!

In the very late 1800s, at the Waldorf Hotel in New York, a man named Oscar Tschirky was suddenly faced with a very similar problem to the one I described above. As the maître d'hôtel, he was in charge of developing and inspiring many of the signature dishes served at the hotel restaurant.
One night a bunch of crazy kids (and by "kids" I mean mid to late 20's) came in to the restaurant moments before it was to be locked up for the evening. All the cooks and servers had gone home and Oscar was alone in the restaurant. Well these crazy kids were hungry after some hard partying and they wanted some food gosh-darnit. Suddenly, Oscar was having a "Crap. I gotta make dinner!" moment. He rushed into the kitchen and stared wildly about. What could he possibly make to satisfy his customers' hunger?
And, like many of us do when we have a "Crap. I gotta make dinner!" moment, he started randomly grabbing stuff.

Take a moment to picture this all happening. Go ahead. Close your eyes. I'll wait...

Do you ever just grab a bunch of stuff and throw it into a big bowl and hope that it tastes good?
Sometimes we get lucky and it does. It even happened to our friend Oscar. In fact, the dish he created went down in the annals of culinary history. By grabbing some lettuce, mayo, apple, chicken, and celery, Oscar created the Waldorf Chicken Salad.
I'm going to show you how we make it at Au Restaurant d'PJF!

What you'll need:

A general mastery of Big Ass Salads (phew! Glad we got that out of the way. Now gird up your loins. Fresh courage take. Cuz, now, a salad we shall make!)
2 apples (I only had one, but it's tastier with two!)
1 bunch red or black grapes
6-9 cups baby greens
1/2c Mayo (see my mayo recipe here)
Lemon juice or another source of acidity (Apple cider vinegar is nice)
1 lb chicken breast
cooking oil (you can use EVCO, olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil. Pick one)
3 celery stalks (optional. We leave it out cuz I don't like raw celery)
Nuts (traditionally the salad is made with walnuts, but tonight we're using slivered almonds)

First you're gonna want to prep your produce by washing and chopping.

Now grab yourself a frying pan and drizzle in your oil. Place bite-sized chicken breast pieces into pan and cook until no longer pink in middle.

In an enormous bowl, toss grapes, apple, celery, lettuce and chicken. Set aside.

To prepare dressing, place 1/2c mayo in bowl with your source of acidity. Mix until thoroughly combined. Toss with salad.
btw, I know this looks like a lot more than 1/2c, but I put it in a gerber baby bowl. Funny how small dishes make food look bigger!

Top with nuts and toss again.

Congratulations! Your "Crap, I gotta make dinner" crisis has been averted. Enjoy!

P.S. If you wanted to be really trendy, you could replace the baby greens with butter lettuce and wrap your chicken, nuts, apples, grapes, and dressing! You could even throw down some feta or crumbled bleu cheese. Oh man that sounds good!

Oh and P.P.S. Funny story. When my mom was visiting once, we had this lovely salad for dinner. She didn't know what to make of it. I was floored. How could this woman, who grew up blocks away from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, never know that the waldorf chicken salad existed? To this day, I'm still flummoxed over it. Continually puzzled. One of those things in the universe you go "Huh? How is that even poss-- nevermind."


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