Sunday, April 12, 2009
The Reconsidered Warhorse: Waldorf Salad Belgique
There are some dishes that seem as old as time -- and taste like it too, frankly.
One such dish is Waldorf Salad; celery, apples, raisins, walnuts, and mayonnaise. Blech.
Just look at it. Gloppy, overdone, too sweet, too bland, too slimy...is this what you want to have for lunch? I thought not. Sure, this sounded like a good idea -- back in the days when chicken in aspic was haute cuisine. James Beard wasn't infallible, people.
Now, while the original recipe has outlived its usefulness, that's not to say that we can't do something with the basic elements. While thinking about how to bring this recipe up and into the 21st century, my mind drifed to thoughts of Belgian witbier, a perfect springtime beverage, perfumed with delicate notes of orange peel and coriander. Why couldn't those flavors work here?
I set to work with an open mind and a sharp knife. Here's what resulted.
Waldorf Salad Belgique
Serves about three as a side, two as an entree, or one very hungry person
1 cup Celery, chopped
1/2 cup Asian Pear, julienned
1/2 cup Walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Green Grapes, halved
The zest of 1 Orange
1 teaspoon whole or powdered Coriander
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese of your choice
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Gather your ingredients.
The first thing you want to do is make orange zest-infused oil. Zest one orange into a bowl, and cover with your olive oil. Set aside for 30 minutes to infuse.
Meanwhile, you'll want to get the rest of your ingredients prepped. I only have whole coriander in the house, so I ground it up into a fine powder using my mortal and pestle.
Chop up your celery, asian pear, walnuts, and grapes, and toss them all into a mixing bowl. I decided to use asian pear and green grapes instead of apples and raisins due to their higher relative water content and refreshing crispness. This results in a lighter, brighter, fresher-tasting final dish.
Pour your orange oil over the raw ingredients, and add your powdered coriander. Crumble up your blue cheese and add that as well. The mild funk of most blues is a classic Belgian ingredient, and adds well-needed depth to the salad without weighing it down. I used a nice wedge of Roquefort, but any blue (Maytag, Stilton, Gorgonzola) will do. If you're squeamish about blue cheese -- and if you are, you're really, really, missing out -- you can take the easy route and use Feta or something like that. I'm just letting you know that it won't be nearly as good.
Give everything a good toss, taste, add salt and pepper, and toss again. Lunch is ready!
That's all there is to it! This is a great reinvention of a classic dish; crisp, citrusy, and summery. A great lunch on its own, this can also be a refreshing side as part of a sandwich-driven picnic. I'm thinking roast beef and lots of horseradish, with some fresh butter lettuce and big, juicy, beefsteak tomatoes...
Music: Tupperwavre -- "La Belgique"