Darina Allen’s apple, celery, and walnut salad is an unexpected riff on the traditional Waldorf. Chicken breasts are marinated with a blend of warming spices—cumin, sweet paprika, turmeric, and cayenne—before being piled atop apples, celery, walnuts, and lettuce. A creamy citrus dressing finishes off this spectacular version of a classic.
Every once in a while, a classic deserves a little freshening up. In this modern take on the Waldorf, Darina Allen (who has been called the Irish Julia Child) takes a little liberty with a salad that’s been served for well over 100 years. The addition of spiced chicken breasts had our testers raving. So did the ease of putting this snappy little beauty together. And if you’re concerned about getting too far from the original, you can toss in a couple of grapes for old times’ sake.–Jenny Latreille
HOW DO I REVIVE SALAD GREENS?
In the dog days of summer especially, greens can wilt pitifully and quickly. If your celery isn’t as crunchy as you’d prefer, soak it in a bowl of ice water for 15 to 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry. This also works well to perk up lettuce and watercress.
Apple, Celery, and Walnut Salad
For the spicy chicken
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 (about 1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower or other mild vegetable oil
For the salad
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar plus more to taste
- 1/4 to 2/3 cup store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
- 1 medium (8 oz) green apple such as Granny Smith, cored and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 1 medium (8 oz) red apple such as Gala, cored and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 1/2 medium (about 12 oz) head celery cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) lengths
- 1/2 cup fresh walnut halves coarsely chopped
- Handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 head crisp lettuce such as romaine, leaves separated
- Watercress sprigs
Make the spicy chicken
- In a medium bowl, combine the cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, sugar, black pepper, salt, garlic, and lemon juice.
- Using a sharp knife, slash the chicken in a couple of places. Rub the spice paste all over the chicken, place it in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- In a small roasting pan, place the chicken and all of the paste. Brush or drizzle with sunflower oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes more, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Baste 2 or 3 times during cooking.
- Move to a plate, spoon the degreased drippings over the chicken, and let cool.
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice and sugar with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Toss the diced apple in the dressing.
- Add the celery, most of the walnuts, half of the parsley, enough mayonnaise to reach your desired consistency, and mix thoroughly. Taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if necessary.
- Slice the chicken crosswise and toss lightly through the salad.
- Place a few lettuce leaves on each plate and pile the salad over it. Add a few watercress sprigs, scatter the remaining walnuts on top, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This apple, celery, and walnut salad has all the makings of a perfect meal. Crisp celery, crunchy apples, chewy walnuts, creamy citrusy dressing, and spicy chicken. An abundance of flavors and textures all meld into one deliciously delightful bite. Quick to put together and would be a great starter salad without the chicken and a complete meal with.
I mixed the spices together and marinated the chicken in the morning and was able to assemble the salad while the chicken cooked for lunch. Lovely weekday lunch with some sparkling water or take things up a notch and serve with your fav white wine.
WOW! We were really blown away by this salad. It's a very well-thought-out recipe. All of the ingredients work together beautifully, and the finished product is so much more than the sum of its parts. Tasting things along the way, I wasn't sure how everything would work together. The celery was very sweet and it became very crisp after soaking in ice water as suggested.
I baked the chicken packed with all of the spice mixture it had marinated overnight in. On its own, the chicken was very spicy, but once mixed with the other ingredients, the spices were tempered. The flavors were marvelous. The spicy chicken and its paste, mixed with the mayonnaise took away the clawing fat overload that you sometimes have with salads with a mayo dressing. I served this over red butter lettuce which I had soaked in cold water, which crisped up the leaves nicely, adding more texture to this apple, celery, and walnut salad.
Originally published May 24, 2021