~ The Classic Blue Cheese & Bacon Wedge Salad + Buttermilk, Blue Cheese 'n Chive Salad Dressing ~
I can't let "wedge week" on Kitchen Encounters end without posting a recipe for the mother-of-all wedge salads: the classic blue cheese & bacon wedge salad. If it's on a steakhouse menu, my husband Joe always orders it, I know Don Draper and all the other Mad Men of Madison Avenue loved it, and, even James Beard, the father of American gastronomy, was a fan of it. In 1963, McCall's Cook Book said, "this firm, crisp, compact most familiar of light-green lettuces is a favorite of men, particularly those who like to pour creamy blue-cheese dressing over it".
Next to a TV Dinner, this just might be as retro as retro gets!
A bit about the classic wedge salad: Culinary reference books say iceberg lettuce (also known as crisphead or Simpson) was popular with Americans as far back as the 1920's, but, it places this lettuce "at the top of its game" in the 1950's and 60's. During this time period, "the classic wedge salad" (a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with creamy blue cheese dressing, crumbled blue cheese, bits of bacon, and sometimes, diced tomatoes too) ruled the salad world much like the grilled chicken Caesar salad does today. It was a staple on every Steakhouse menu. While this combination has been deemed unhealthy by current-day food police, it was, and still is, undeniably delicious. This is unfair. Back in my day "the big cold wedge" was a pleasurable indulgence: we Americans weren't eating via drive-through windows every night of the week.
A bit about iceberg lettuce: Prior to the 1920's, Americans relied primarily on seasonal leaf lettuces that were grown in their gardens or sold in their local markets for their salads. Then, along came the railroad. It became possible for iceberg to be shipped year round, in traincars, from California to every corner of the USA. Each crate of this round-headed super-crispy lettuce, which has a longer shelf life than all other leafy greens, was topped with ice to keep it cold during the long trip. As the traincars would pull into depots for delivery and unpacking, the rail workers would shout, "here comes the icebergs", or, "the icebergs are coming!
For my Buttermilk, Blue Cheese 'n Chive Salad dressing:
Blue cheese dressing is one of America's most popular salad dressings -- especially with men. In any steakhouse you'll be offered their house salad, many times a classic wedge salad, with the option of their in-house-made blue cheese dressing on top of it. Order chicken wings anywhere, and unless you request them served otherwise, they will arrive at your table with blue cheese dressing.
My recipe will rival any blue cheese dressing. Chocked full of chunky blue cheese crumbles, just the right balance of sweet and savory spice with a touch of heat, I'm reasonably certain this will become one of your favorite versions. My favorite blue cheese comes from Denmark, but, if you've got a favorite, as long as it can be crumbled, use it. If you have the time, prepare the dressing a day before serving to allow it time to thicken and give all the wonderful flavors time to marry!
1/2 cup each: buttermilk, mayonnaise and sour cream
1/2-3/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon each: lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons minced chives
1-1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese, 4-6 ounces
For the dried spice blend:
1/4 teaspoon each: minced onion, onion powder, celery seed, cracked black pepper, white pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
~ Step 3. Fold in the chives and blue cheese crumbles.
Note: Depending on how much blue cheese you added, you will have 2-2 1/2 cups of salad dressing. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate several hours to overnight.
Meet "the big cold wedge" of the past & indulge!
1 1/2-2 cups dressing, from above recipe
1/2-3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2-3/4 cup crisply-fried and chopped bacon
2-3 tablespoons minced chives
Note: Asparagus is not part of this classic salad, but, when served next to a steak, they and/or tomatoes turn it into an exquisite retro meal!
~ Step 1. If serving asparagus, blanch in simmering water for 1 minute, drain, rinse and chill.
To assemble the big cold wedge:
Place one wedge of lettuce on each plate. Arrange 6-8 optional asparagus spears around each wedge. Drizzle with a generous 1/4 cup of blue cheese dressing and sprinkle crumbled cheese and bits of bacon over the top. Garnish each salad with chopped chives.
Would you like freshly ground pepper on that?
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large spoon or rubber spatula; 6-cup food storage container w/lid
Cook's Note: Would you like filet mignon with your wedge salad? For another retro favorite you can find my recipe for ~ Steak au Poivre (Peppercorn Crusted Filet Mignon) ~ in Categories 3, 11, 21 or 26!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)