Spicy Chicken Waldorf Salad


C just doesn’t get the Waldorf Salad. I placed a plate of it before him and I could have been handing him a pair of patent red stilettos judging by the puzzled-but-I-think-I-still-get-it look on his face. “It’s a Waldorf Salad,” I piped encouragingly (in the same tone that I would say, “Of course I’ll wear them!”). Hmmm..."It’s interesting,” he says – which is C-speak for “I’ll eat it but please don’t put it in the daily rotation.

Humph. I guess not everyone is as devoted to mayonnaise (and mayonnaise based foods) as I am. Nor is everyone as taken with charmingly retro dishes.

The Waldorf Salad was created in the Waldorf Hotel of New York in 1893, by the maître d'hôtel at that time, Oscar Tschirky. Although some say not. The famous maître d'hôtel is also said to be have put together the first Eggs Benedict. Although this too is contested. Cole Porter includes the Waldorf Salad in his list of Top things. I imagine many a nervous wife of a time before me, trotting this out to her stockbroker husband and friends.

(Could this be why C didn’t take to it? Because he isn’t a stockbroker and I’m not a nervous trotting wife? Hmmm. Could be...)

Whichever account is true; this is just the sort of glamorous, F. Scott Fitzgerlad-y provenance I love my food to have. So even if apple + celery + mayonnaise + walnuts may elicit a bit of a question mark from some...I’ll be lining up for this salad with my silver spoon in hand, high-heels clicking, and Cole Porter in my head.

Spicy Chicken Waldorf Salad

  • 1 cup chopped red apples, cored but unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup (approximately) chopped cooked chicken breast (2 chicken breast fillets, pan-fried in olive oil with salt and pepper, then chopped)
  • 3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 to one whole lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (or any spicy chilli you like)
  • Lettuce leaves (just enough to line 2-3 plates)

- Toss all the ingredients, using only half the lemon’s juice and 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, in a bowl and mix gently until just combined. Taste and adjust – add lemon or mayonnaise as to your taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste as well.
- Serve chilled on a bed of lettuce.
- Serves 2-3.

Originally, the Waldorf consisted of only apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Walnuts came later, but are now an essential part of the dish. I’ve added chicken to mine, as many versions have, to make it more substantial as a meal. I also added some cayenne pepper to make it spicy – because I love all things spicy – though I’ve probably done Mr. Tschirky and Mr. Porter grave offense. This will serve 2-3, but if your significant other does not appreciate retro-glamour and loses interest after a small plate, keep the extras and have it as a sandwich or a wrap the next day. But don’t be too hard on him – we can’t all live in This Side of Paradise – give him a kiss and promise him adobo and remember that it’s our differences that make life exciting :)