Updated: May 24, 2019
reposted from DavidJKitchen.com
The label for Hidden Valley’s ranch dressing describes it as the original. Chow.com doesn’t disagree, but is unimpressed with how Hidden Valley’s creation has evolved:
“RANCH SALAD DRESSING HAS GONE ASTRAY FROM ITS ORIGINAL BUTTERMILK-HERB RECIPE FIRST CREATED FOR GUESTS AT A REAL PLACE CALLED THE HIDDEN VALLY RANCH NEAR SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA. HIDDEN VALLEY SOLD OUT FOR THE BIG BUCKS, TURNING ITS RECIPE INTO A BOTTLED, MASS-PRODUCED, SLUDGY MESS THAT AMERICANS LOVE, BUT JUST BECAUSE LOTS OF PEOPLE DOUSE THE WHITE GOOP ON EVERYTHING FROM PIZZA TO FRENCH FRIES IS NO REASON YOU SHOULD. THROW AWAY YOUR PRESERVATIVE-LADEN BOTTLED DRESSING AND START SHAKING UP YOUR OWN.”
Hidden Valley’s list of ingredients includes such delectable items as xanthan gum, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid, calcium disodium edta, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. These additives largely serve to prolong the shelf life of the dressing. Hidden Valley doesn’t have a clue as to how long it will set on a shelf, either at the grocery store or in your home. Hence, it is necessary to laden it with preservatives.
Another issue that arises with commercial dressings is that they are bland. The manufacturers are trying to satisfy as broad a market as possible, so the goal is to offend no one with a flavor that is too pronounced. As a result, any really noticeable taste is dampened in favor of one that is acceptable to nearly everyone but really enjoyed by few.
Nuts to that. Literally within less than five minutes, you can make your own dressings, for little cost and great bragging rights. Keep in mind that because they lack preservatives, homemade dressings have a limited shelf life. I rarely use them for more than a week. On the other hand, that just encourages you to try new ones.
Dressings are an excellent example of doing what chefs do constantly. No, I don’t mean writing cook books. I do mean tasting as they go along. The first time you make a new dressing, follow the directions closely. But taste it before serving. If you feel it needs something, such as lemon juice, add it. It’s your dressing. Also, as is the case with most food preparation, gather all the ingredients together before making the dressing. It will make the production easier and warn you if something is missing.
As always, in the recipes that follow a large T means table spoon, small t means tea spoon. C means cup. Evoo means extra-virgin olive oil, thanks to Rachel Ray.
My favorite dressings are garlicky, to varying degrees. We’ll start with three of those.
THIS CLASSIC DRESSING WAS PREVIOUSLY EXPLAINED IN THE “SIDES” INSTALLMENT OF THE BLOG. HOWEVER, IT IS WORTH REPEATING. IT WAS LARGELY TAKEN FROM FOOD NETWORK, WHICH EARLIER BORROWED IT FROM WOLFGANG PUCK’S “PIZZA, PASTA AND MORE!”. THE ONE INGREDIENT I CHANGED WAS GOING FROM ANCHOVY FILLETS TO ANCHOVY PASTE, AS EXPLAINED IN “SIDES”. THAT SAME CHANGE IS DONE WHENEVER ANCHOVY FILLETS ARE CALLED FOR. EXCEPT FOR ON PIZZA. ORDERING ANCHOVIES ON PIZZA MAKES IT CERTAIN THAT NO ONE WILL SNITCH ANY OF YOURS, RATHER LIKE CHEWING BLACK JACK GUM.
1 egg yolk
3 T fresh lemon juice—lemon juice is a prominent fixture in salad dressings, to the point that you can make one out of only juice and evoo. Because it is so important, use fresh.
1 T minced garlic
½ t Worcestershire
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T anchovy paste
1 C vegetable oil (use what you have—canola, grapeseed, etc.)
1/3 C evoo
Salt and Pepper
Freshly ground Parmesan
Whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper flakes, mustard and anchovy paste. Slowly mix in both oils, slowly so they will emulsify, meaning that they won’t separate later. Sprinkle the lettuce, broken down into chewable pieces, with Parmesan and pepper, sprinkle with croutons and serve with the dressing. Because the dressing is strong, serve it on the side and let the diners choose how much to use.
LEMON GARLIC DRESSING
THE FLAVOR OF THIS DRESSING IS SIMILAR TO CEASAR’S, BUT IS EASIER TO MAKE, WITH FEWER INGREDIENTS. THIS ONE WAS ALSO ABSCONDED FROM FOOD NETWORK, WHICH HAD EARLIER FOUND IT IN GOURMET MAGAZINE.
1 clove minced garlic—I’ve never understood this. Some cloves of garlic are several times larger than others. When the recipe simply calls for a clove, I try to pick out a medium size.
1 t kosher or sea salt
4 T fresh lemon juice
2 T white wine vinegar
½ t grated lemon zest
¾ C evoo
Mash the garlic and salt together. Whisk that together with the lemon juice, vinegar, zest and pepper, then whisk in oil until emulsified. Serve with salad of your choice.
LEMON ANCHOVY DRESSING
THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS AN IMPRESSIVE COOKING SECTION (COOKING.NYTIMES.COM) THAT PROVIDES SUBSCRIBERS WITH A DAILY SET OF NEW RECIPES. THE FOLLOWING IS ONE OF THEIRS, IN WHICH THEY, BEING THE TIMES, ALSO TOLD READERS WHAT TO INCLUDE IN THE SALAD. MORE MODESTLY, I AM PROVIDING JUST THE DRESSING.
2 T anchovy paste
5 T evoo
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 T fresh lemon juice or sherry vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
Heat 2 T of evoo in a small skillet and add anchovy paste and garlic. Stir until garlic is fragrant and beginning to color. (WARNING—garlic can be burned quickly and become bitter. Keep temperature low and watch it.) Transfer to a bowl or mortar and pestle [picture] (check wedding present from goofy aunt) and grind into a paste. If your mortar and pestle is in the dishwasher, use a fork and bowl. Add lemon juice or vinegar to the hot pan and stir to deglaze bottom of pan, then transfer to mortar and pestle. Add mustard and then evoo, slowing working them into mixture. Check flavor, add pepper, if needed.
THIS IS FROM MARTHA STEWART, APPARENTLY CREATED WHEN SHE WAS NOT OCCUPIED MANUFACTURING OXYGEN. IT IS TANGY, NOT THE USUAL SUGARY MESS FOUND ON STORE SHELVES.
¼ C white wine vinegar
¼ C ketchup, or catsup
1 T sugar
2 t paprika
1 t Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt (I think she means kosher or sea salt)
1/3 C evoo
Whisk together all except evoo, seasoning with salt to taste. Add oil in steady stream, slowly, while whisking, until incorporated.
I DON’T LIKE RANCH DRESSING, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE DO. OUT OF RESPECT FOR MY PUBLIC (IT COULD HAPPEN) I PROVIDE CHOW.COM’S RECIPE, IGNORING THEIR SIDE RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE.
1 C well-shaken buttermilk
¼ C mayo
3 T sour cream
3 T chopped chives
4 t white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
½ t kosher salt
1/8 t ground pepper, more if needed
Place all ingredients in a Mason jar or other container with a tight fitting lid, shake well. Taste and season as necessary. Chill for at least an hour. The dressing will be good for up to 3 days. The use of a Mason jar, of whatever size, is a good idea. Because these dressings are not voluminous, small jars work well.
Chow’s reference to “a mass produced, sludgy mess” may be a little over the top, but the point is well taken. You can do better, without the chemicals.