The other evening, Martin and I spoke of our recent reconciliations with the South-- negotiations which have happened in large part through time spent absorbing the fierce phenomenon that is country music (I've also benefited from lots of quality interaction with Kenneth, whose name, after all, is Country Music). Thinking about it earlier, I realized that proportional to my new appreciation of the South is a new enthusiasm for mayonnaise. This summer, if a menu was short on protein, I whipped up some quick devilled eggs. Mayonnaise is not South-specific, by any means: it clearly has a rich European heritage that precedes and travels alongside American sandwich culture. Keeping this in mind, I think it's fair to say that mayonnaise, like country music, is an American stalwart, though contemporary opinions about it can be somewhat fraught. Consider, for instance, the flack Amanda Hesser food writer for The New York Times has received over her insistence that Hellmann's is a damned good product that one should really keep on hand. Despite Hesser's suggestion, and the recommendations of James Villas and his mother Martha Pearl, I remain loyal to the regional label, Mrs. Clark's.
If you've seen the Fawlty Towers episode entitled "Waldorf Salad," the dish's ingredients are likely branded in your memory: "Celery! Walnuts! Apples! Grapes! in Mannaze." We ate Waldorf salad a lot when I was growing up, though my mother used raisins instead of grapes (which belonged for some reason in her yogurt salad). I must admit to an aversion to celery which has kept me from revisiting this salad in recent mayonnaise-dotted days. Celery's flavor-- especially raw celery's flavor-- is so extroverted that it always seems to fight rather than blend or merge with its surroundings. I'm not alone in this: Alice Waters writes, "Because celery tastes so strong and herbaceous, especially the leaves, it is used rather cautiously in the Chez Panisse kitchen, most frequently as a part of a bouquet garni to flavor a meat or poultry stock." Last night, though, I stumbled on this concoction which has returned Waldorf salad to my table and has added another notch in my celebrated Mayonnaise Bottle. This salad retains the presence of celery via celery root while avoiding raw celery's intensity.
Sweet Crunchy Apples, cored and roughly grated
Celery Root/Celeriac, "peeled" and roughly grated
Walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Raisins or Grapes (halved)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Just enough mayonnaise to bind the slaw together
I used 2 parts apple to 3 parts celery root which worked nicely.