Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Steakhouse Style Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

Photo Kendra Bailey Morris
One of my most memorable wedge salad moments was when the hubby and I were dining at one of our favorite steak joints Flemings Steakhouse. While sampling a bottle of Hall Cab (which is utterly outstanding with big, meaty NY Strip, by the way) we dove into crisp, cold chunks of iceberg lettuce, smoky bacon bits smothered in gobs of creamy blue cheese dressing. Perhaps it was the environment (or that second glass of wine) but for a moment, I felt my eyes glaze over as I muttered something along the lines of, "Dear god, that is good."

Naturally, as happens with many of us home cooks, I had to take a stab at recreating this salad at home, beginning with the dressing. Blue cheese dressing is one of those salad accents that can be out of this world (homemade with chunks of quality blue cheese) or fundamentally dull (commercial made with little to no blue cheese and nearly devoid of flavor altogether). I figured if I stuck to my guns and used only the highest quality ingredients I could find, how could I go wrong?

One of the aspects of blue cheese dressing, I love so much is just that hint of garlic, not too much to overwhelm, but just enough to lend a piquant savoriness. I also discovered that a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce really elevates the flavor of the dressing to something truly swoon-worthy. Maybe it's the fact that Worcestershire lends just a bit of fermentation or incites memories of flaming grilled meat. I honestly have no idea, but what I do know, is that it's an essential addition to any homemade blue cheese dressing.

Then, there's the blue cheese, the star of this show, with its naturally salty, cow's milk goodness. Here, quality should not be overlooked. Avoid the pre-crumbled (tasteless) stuff and get yourself a nice wedge of Maytag, Amish Blue, Danish Blue or Roaring Forties and crumble it by hand.

When it comes to your salad, select only the freshest iceberg (check the base of the lettuce, where it has been picked, for signs of browning when looking for the freshest ones). Good quality, thick-cut bacon is a must, as is plenty of freshly ground pepper over your finished product. In true steakhouse fashion, serve your salad as a first course to your meat-laden dinner with a nice big pour of Cabernet, Merlot or even a spicy Zinfandel to play off the freshly ground pepper. For an excellent steak recipe, check out Giuliano and Lael Hazan's uber-tasty Italian-style grilled rib-eye recipe.

Photos Kendra Bailey Morris

Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge Salad
Serves 4

One head of iceberg lettuce
Blue cheese dressing (see recipe below)One medium-sized tomato, seeded and diced
4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 cup blue cheese, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
One tablespoon minced chives, optional.

Cut lettuce in 8 wedges and plate two wedges on each plate.  Drizzle each wedge with blue cheese. Then sprinkle with tomato, bacon bits and blue cheese.  Season generously with black pepper and garnish with fresh chives.  Serve any additional dressing on the side.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
Makes about 4-6 servings

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk*
One heaping tablespoon sour cream
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
Coarse black pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together mayo, buttermilk and sour cream. Add rest of ingredients and mix well, incorporating the blue cheese, but leaving a few chunks as well. Season generously with black pepper, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Note: this dressing is excellent served with Buffalo wings and celery.

*If dressing is too thick, simply add a little buttermilk until you achieve your desired consistency. Add less buttermilk if you want a chunkier-type dip.
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  1. bacon and blue cheese: the reasons i am willing to eat lettuce

  2. Thank you! Your post makes our mouths water!

  3. Thanks guys! This is probably my fav salad on the planet...definitely the bacon and blue combo helps.


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