A sophisticated riff on a classic all-American favorite with its creation dating back to 1896 and the iconic luxury Park Avenue, New York City hotel. Over this 120 year plus history, the recipe has been fussed over and tweaked. Originally, nothing more than a bed of tender lettuce, chopped apples, celery, and a simple mayonnaise dressing, chefs of the hotel have taken liberties and added their own twists: raisins, walnuts, and lemon juice. One clear consistency in this story is this salad's popularity. Throwing another hat into the ring, this composition seeks to lighten the mayo while preserving the taste. Thinly slicing rather than chopping the apples makes for beautiful presentation. Substituting fresh roasted grapes for the raisins, and sprinkling with a tiny bit of mild blue cheese creates a sweet and unexpected splendid marrying of flavors. The grapes will blister and caramelize on the outside to provide a textural contrast to the jammy interior consistency and make this plate simple to prepare but sexy enough to serve at a dinner party.
Ingredients24 seedless grapes, on the vine 1 tablespoon OLIVE OIL 1/4 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted 3 ounces mild blue cheese 2 small tart apples such as McIntosh or Macoun, sliced on a mandoline 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 celery rib, finely chopped 1/4 cup crème fraîche 1 small head Boston lettuce or other baby leaves Fresh chives Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Toss the grapes with the olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast them on a half sheet baking pan for about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk the crème fraîche with the 1 tablespoon lemon juice and set aside.
- Remove the large outer leaves of the lettuce and reserve for another use. Place smaller Boston lettuce leaves or baby leaves on a PLATTER.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of lemon over the apple slices and toss to distribute. Place the apple slices over the lettuce leaves and sprinkle with the celery and walnuts.
- Crumble the blue cheese over the salad.
- Drizzle the crème fraîche dressing over the plate. Using scissors, snip the chives over the salad and sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Small apples make easier to eat bites. Also, less tart Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Gala are fine crisp apple substitutions (eschew Red Delicious). The smaller the grapes, the prettier the plate. Toasting the walnuts is optional, but enhances their intensity. Buttermilk blue is a mild, tangy, creamy blue cheese sold in crumbles and small wedges and the perfect jumping off point for those fearing an intense stinky cheese experience. Point Reyes blue is a Californian, award-winning, rustic, milky white, ultra creamy blue cheese made with sweet fresh--this is a cheese guests will inquire about.