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Monthly Archives: December 2015

WALDORF: NOT JUST SALAD

WALDORF: NOT JUST SALAD

Years ago I read a rather sweet story, possibly in one of my old cooking magazines, written by an elderly man about his one experience at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

He was an army private during WWII, on leave at home in New York one Christmas. He wanted to propose in a spectacularly romantic fashion to his girl (this was before flash mobs and YouTube) but was on a limited budget. So he wrote to the maitre d’ at the Waldorf Astoria. He explained that he would like to take his girl there for dinner on New Year’s Eve and propose to her at midnight, and told the maitre d’ his budget. I don’t remember now what the budget was, but it was low. Very low for the Waldorf-Astoria, but he didn’t know that.

Eventually he got a note back from the Waldorf-Astoria saying there was a table reserved for two on New Year’s Eve. He and his girl dressed in their finest and arrived at the hotel and were escorted to their table. They were presented with a hand-watercolored paper menu outlining what they would be served: consomme, breast of chicken, baked potato, vegetables.

The two lovebirds enjoyed their dinner. Afterwords, at a word from the maitre d’, the house band struck up their song, and they stepped onto the dance floor – where the young man proposed.

I don’t remember now what the bill was, or if it was comped by the Waldorf-Astoria, or how that was worked out. She said yes and that was the important part. It was only years later that the young man realized that his budget could not ever have covered the cost of the dinner, and that he had been given a great gift courtesy of the Waldorf-Astoria.

So I told you all that to get around to this.

I’m always a little surprised when people tell me they have never heard of Waldorf Salad. My mother always made it at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We never had it any other time, and I don’t know why not because it’s easy to make and goes with a lot of other foods. And I never think to make it except for a holiday dinner. It is credited to Oscar of the Waldorf  but actually was made elsewhere before he got credit. No matter.

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WALDORF SALAD

  • fresh crisp apples, preferably with pretty peel color
  • fresh crisp celery, preferably not stringy
  • walnuts
  • mayonnaise

This isn’t even a recipe: Chop apples, celery, and walnuts. Mix together with mayonnaise. Refrigerate until serving time. Proportions are up to you.

This can be varied in 58948594 ways. Grapes are a good addition, and so is avocado. Try sour cream instead of mayonnaise. Olives, chopped chicken, capers, oranges, cucumber, a spoonful of horseradish, yogurt, whipped cream….

This keeps well several days in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

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SWEET POTATO SOUP

SWEET POTATO SOUP

After many years, I finally learned which is a sweet potato and which is a yam. There are a lot of botanical differences that don’t matter much to me, but at least I know now: the orange-y fleshed ones are yams. The pale fleshed ones are sweet potatoes.

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Photo from thekitchn.com

Sweet potatoes and/or yams are wildly nutritious and are at their best in the fall and winter. My husband loves them and I have been looking for good ways to prepare them – I am not a fan of the marshmallow-gunk-topped ones.  Despite what Alton Brown says, roasting is the best way to cook them. It takes time but they turn out wonderfully sweet.

I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato Bisque in Anna Thomas’s Love Soup cookbook.  Her version included a celery root, which I did not have on hand and didn’t feel like driving to buy. I figured some regular old celery would work just fine. I made some other adaptations and simplified her recipe.  I much prefer yams over sweet potatoes but Yam Soup just doesn’t have that certain cachet, so Sweet Potato Soup it is.

SWEET POTATO SOUP

  • 2 large yams
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • broth of your choice (vegetable, chicken, mix of water and white wine, whatever)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • cayenne
  • salt and pepper

Wash the yams, stab them all over with the point of a knife, and put them on a piece of aluminum foil on the rack of the oven. Turn the oven temperature to 350 and cook the yams until they are tender (give them a squeeze with a mitt-protected hand) and oozing caramelized juices (this is why you use foil). Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them without burning yourself.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until onion is lightly browned and caramelized. After about 20 minutes, add the sage and thyme and let them cook with the onions another 10 minutes or so.

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Peel the yams and cut into slices. Put them in a large-ish pot with about 4 cups water or broth and the chopped celery. Bring to a simmer and let cook slowly about 20-30 minutes.

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Add the onions to the yams and cook them together another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let them cool a bit, then puree them in batches in a blender or food processor. You will probably need more broth to puree the yams.

Return pureed soup to soup pot. Add a good sprinkle of cayenne and more broth if needed to make it the consistency you like. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.

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Serve as is, or stir in some cream/half and half. Garnish with some toasted sliced almonds or some salsa/Sriracha.

This makes about 2 quarts.

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