This salad got its name from the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, where it was first served in 1893.
In 1893, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street in New York City, the new Waldorf Hotel opened, an opulent, magnificent, 13-story structure built by William Waldorf Astor, son of John Jacob Astor Jr. Oscar Tschirky, a Swiss immigrant, left his position as head waiter at Delmonico's, New York City's finest and most renowned restaurant, to come on board as the maitre d'hotel. He held that position until his death, becoming well known as "Oscar of the Waldorf". He was not a chef but is said to have created the salad. In 1896, "The Cook Book by Oscar of the Waldorf" was published, featuring the recipe for Waldorf Salad. In 1897 the Astoria Hotel was added on and the establishment was renamed the Waldorf-Astoria. It was torn down in 1928 and the Empire State Building was built on that parcel of land. The hotel was rebuilt at it's present location on Park Avenue and reopened in 1931. The coffee shop is named Oscar's, after its first maitre'd.
The original recipe contained just julienned unpared apples, sliced celery and mayonnaise and was served on a bed of lettuce leaves. It became an immediate hit and the signature salad of the hotel. Chopped walnuts and grapes or raisins were added later. There are endless variations in recipe books and restaurants everywhere, as chefs and cooks try to put their own spin on it.
For four servings: 2 cups diced, unpared apples, 1 1/2 cups sliced celery, 1 cup seedless grapes or 1/2 cup raisins (optional), 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. powdered sugar, 1/4 cup sour cream, chopped walnuts.
Mix all ingredients together except for walnuts. Mound onto individual beds of lettuce leaves and sprinkle each serving with chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.
Lunch or Dinner Entree Variation
To make a lunch or dinner entree salad, omit the powdered sugar and add 1 to 2 cups diced cooked chicken, turkey, shrimp or crab. If you're using chicken or turkey, add 1 tsp. poultry seasoning. For shrimp or crab, add 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning. Place one half avocado on each individual bed of lettuce leaves and scoop a mound of salad onto each one. Sprinkle each serving with chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.