At the Waldorf

This is one of the sides that brings me right back to my humble days of early chef-dom - a very classical and very good Waldorf Salad.

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Waldorf-Astoria Hotel c1899

A bit behind the salad history: Oscar Tschirky, who was maître d’hôtel at the Waldorf Hotel in NYC is credited with creating this recipe in the 1890’s, as well as many other recipes. Veal Oscar anyone? I'll save that for another post.

The Waldorf Salad is simply apples, celery and mayonnaise served on a lettuce leaf. But, that’s where it all begins. Walnuts became a common addition years later, as did grapes, other dried fruit such raisins, apricots and sultana. My friend Tony even opted to add the fore mentioned and cut the mayo with good Greek yogurt; which is very refreshing and lighter than all mayo or a combo mayo & unsweetened whipped cream. 

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Things have changed since the 1890s, so go ahead and put your own spin on the Waldorf, Oscar won’t mind. Use culinary license, prepare it with apples and toasted nuts; cut the mayo, even sub with today’s olive oil mayo, which I prefer. Serve some grilled chicken or shrimp on the side and you are talking a healthy main dish. 

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Pasture Awareness

The Bottom Line: Poultry and eggs pasture raised taste better than those raised in confinement. 

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Pastured poultry (not referring to pasteurization process, that's for foods such as milk, cheese and beer) is a technique used for raising chickens or other poultry right on green pastures. The birds are always kept on fresh pasture by systematically moving them around every few days, which allows the birds to be raised in a cleaner, healthier environment. And fed the old fashioned way- on fresh green pasture grass and with wholesome grain. 

'Pastured living' is not only good for the chickens- but chickens managed correctly, are good for the pasture. Hens are brillant at finding and eating small seeds, insects, and tender grass and leaves. Their manure leaves behind a healthy shot of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The trick is to move the hens before the pasture has been pecked and scratched to death.

Although there is nothing new here, since farmers have been raising poultry on pastures for centuries in this manner. In fact, most domesticated poultry was raised outdoors until the 1950s when large confinement egg and poultry operations found they could mass produce product confined in restricted conditions. Even though the majority of poultry is now produced in high-density factory farms, the good news is a rising number of growers have chosen to raise their poultry in outdoor free range pastures instead of indoor confinement to produce a high quality, farm-fresh, all-natural product. Which brings us back to quality, quality, quality. That's good stuff.

The pastured poultry movement has found great support among consumers, chefs and restaurateurs because of the high quality and unsurpassed flavor of such products. And so, local farmers continue to see growth with demand for premium-priced pasture-raised poultry and eggs. 

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Nutritional Benefit: Deep-yellow-yolked eggs, the sign of natural chock full of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.

In Season: Pastured eggs are seasonal, hens lay less as the days get shorter. In industrial confined egg operations they use artificial lights. However, while the ladies are resting and not earning their keep, they are eating even more expensive grain because of shorter daylight and colder days. Just one of the reasons why pastured eggs will cost more.

Inspiration: See what hard work, dedication, and pride in what the natural earth creates. Chris and Holly of Browder's Birds Mattituck, on the North Fork LI are career changers who run Long Islands's only organic & pastured poultry farm. On the west coast Soul Food Farm owners Alexis and Eric Koefoed raise pastured chickens for both eggs and meat. They turn sunlight, grass, bugs, and high-quality domestic feed into animals that live a healthy and humane life --free to roam in fresh air and peck and take dust baths — and then into delicious and healthy food. They are driven by the belief that "You are what you eat, and what you eat, eats." Soul Food Farm, Vacaville, CA.

Resources: For more information on where to find pasture eggs near you:

American Pastured Poultry Producers Association

Rodale Institute

When eggs are this good they need to take center stage, or center of the plate. So here's my Eggs Benedict Recipe, taken from Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco.

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Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

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Thank You Mr. and Mrs. Benedict

The story behind this world famous legendary brunch dish may or may not be true. But, when a dish calls for eggs to take center stage, or center of the plate this is always the one that first comes to mind. Here's my Eggs Benedict Recipe, taken from Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco. Enjoy!

 Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

Egg Up!

National Egg Day is June 3rd; though there is conflicting information as to when it originated and by whom. The egg has been an object of celebration for millenniums in every culture and with so much symbolism surrounding it. But, you don't have to jump on the bandwagon because of National Egg Day; how about just because they are so versatile. Whether you enjoy eggs in quiche, eggs with ham & sunny side up, poached into eggs benedict, or hard boiled and deviled - give eggs a break! That's no yoke!

These poached eggs I enjoyed at the Park Hotel Kenmare. Thank you Chef Mark Johnston.

Tips for cooking successful poached eggs:

Use the freshest eggs for poaching.

Add a few drops of white vinegar to the water before poaching.

Spin gently simmering water with a spoon- like a whirlpool, gently add cracked eggs one at a time. Note, water temperature will lower to proper poaching temperature once eggs are added.

Use a slotted spoon to gather poached eggs in water.

image: Hirsch Media