I’m procrastinating a bit on these posts mainly because I did something stupid. Last week I was cooking at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and I lost my camera. Left the damn thing on a ride and not just any ride – the LAST ride of a long weekend. You have got to be kidding me. But those Disney folks are something else, let me tell you. Not only did they find my camera; they’re sending it back to me for free. Fancy that! Why doesn’t everything work this well? So until the damn thing arrives, I’m dragging my heels on cooking new things so as not to subject you to some crappy iPhone pics. But fear not; in going through my photo archives I found some great things I’d completely forgotten about. During this digging session, I came across something from a few weeks ago that was mighty tasty.
While wandering the grocery produce section thinking I should eat something healthy, I stopped in front of the iceberg lettuce. Iceberg? When was the last time I bought that? I honestly didn’t know. Curious. Remember the days before baby greens, arugula and bags of multi-hued fancy schmancy greens? Back then it was crisp white iceberg all the way, baby. A “salad” was always a pale crunchy heap with a few shreds of carrot, an unripe tomato slice and if you were in a classy joint, a few shreds of purple cabbage. There was no balsamic vinaigrette in those days, just “oil and vinegar” and the “dressing” options were thousand island, French or blue cheese. What is French dressing anyway? And good god, when was the last time you were offered “oil and vinegar”? Pouring Wesson on my lettuce back in those days used to gross me out. Remember, this was pretty much before everyone went nutso over olive oil.
Oh how I loved blue cheese dressing as a kid! Real blue cheese dressing, creamy and tangy with nice chunks of cheese; not that bottled fakey tasting stuff. Chunky was key. I would circle salad bars, scoping out the dressings and lifting the ladle to assess the dressing-to-cheese-chunk-ratio. This was important – I wasn’t about to blow my chilled plate and carefully selected assemblage of salad fixin’s on a bottle of Wishbone. Oh no. Once, at Sizzler’s infamous salad bar, I ladled an enormous chunk of blue cheese onto my iceberg and was beyond excited until I bit down and realized it was a soggy, saturated crouton. Ugh. I learned about disappointments early in life.
Back to the present … as I was puttering around the produce section, I decided it was high time to have some real blue cheese dressing again. Looking at the packaged dressings I was turned off. I just knew what they would taste like. To get what I wanted, I’d have to make it myself and chunky was certainly in the cards.
Then, thinking back to that iceberg, I remembered the steakhouse classic … the wedge salad. So very 70’s and rather retro-cool right? Then there’s the bacon AND blue cheese factor? Oh get out of here! It was a done deal. I tossed a big fat head of iceberg in the cart for the first time in forever, rounded up the cheese along with a few other ingredients and headed home.
Why don’t we make creamy dressings, or any dressings really, at home more often? They require perhaps a few more ingredients than a standard vinaigrette but are actually easier (no emulsion necessary) and so much more delicious than the packaged crap. Rich with buttermilk, sour cream, a bit of mayo and chunky crumbles of real blue cheese mashed in, this is the blue cheese dressing of your childhood. Or at least my childhood. No fakey taste, no super smooth weird textures, no crappy stabilizers, strange sweetness or off flavors. This is made with good fresh ingredients and comes together in no time. Oh boy, is this stuff delicious! I had to physically restrain myself from eating it by the spoonful. Let’s just say I had moderate success with that.
Now onto the salad before I licked the dressing bowl clean. Ridiculously easy – I cut the iceberg into big fat wedges, rounded up some really lovely Sungold cherry tomatoes from my garden plot, diced a little red onion and best of all, cooked some bacon until crisp. Everything was then drizzled, dropped and placed on top of that crisp wedge along with a good grind of pepper. It was rather pretty – nothing like the wedge of the past. At some point, after several bites, everything mixed together in the bowl for one helluva lunch. I don’t necessarily think this was the healthy salad I had intended but it was mighty tasty, came together rather quickly and made me smile with nostalgia. And yes, there were indeed some nice chunks of blue cheese throughout that creamy mess. I made it after all.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: OH HELL YES. This is a classic. Make this and you’ve got a dressing, a dip, a topping, a spread … or perhaps a flat-out snack on it’s own. It’s one of those things that’s so easy to pick up at the store that I think we’ve forgotten it’s pretty easy to make. Quit accepting a pale sub-par impersonation of the real thing. You’re worth it. This also falls into that “big-fat-creamy-wonderful” category of foods that you just need to indulge in once in a while to remember how good something can be.
HOMEMADE BLUE CHEESE DRESSING WITH A CLASSIC WEDGE SALAD
for the dressing: (makes about 1 – 1 ½ cups)
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (5 ounces)
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise (Hellman’s Best is, well, best)
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground pepper
for the salad:
6 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
½ large red onion, finely diced
- For the dressing: In a medium bowl, mash 2/3 of the blue cheese with the buttermilk until combined but not smooth.
- Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and pepper and stir until combined.
- Fold in the reserved crumbled blue cheese and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
- For the salad: over medium-high, cook the diced bacon in a skillet until crisp.
- Drain the bacon on a paper towel lined plate and set aside until needed.
- Place the iceberg wedges on chilled plates or shallow bowls.
- Drizzle each wedge with the blue cheese dressing.
- Top with the tomatoes, onion and finally, the cooked bacon.
- Grind fresh pepper over each wedge and serve, ice-cold.