Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Wedge Salad:

Simple Bliss 

Since having this salad for the first time about two months ago, I have come close to dying of hyper-wedge-salad-poisoning. Yes, I've had my life's share in a short period of time. I don't know what it is about this thing that has had such a profound effect on me, but it has. I love it when something so simple-stupid is the best thing you've had in ages. It keeps you on your toes and makes you remember that simplicity is sometimes divine.   

I'm sure it has something to do with the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) decadence of it. I'm mean this one has just the right combo of ingredients that I find appealing. You get the crunchiness of the iceberg lettuce, which is my favorite lettuce, by the way. And I don't care if it's throwback 70's or whatever. I love it. The meatiness of the shiitake mushrooms makes the salad feel more like a meal than starter. In fact, when I make it, it is a meal. I usually don't have anything with it but that's not to say a nice bean or veggie soup wouldn't go good along side. Then there is the crunchy-salty-tastiness of the fried onions that top this salad. I almost want to say they are the icing on the cake but we still haven't gotten to the dressing. The richness of the buttermilk ranch coupled with the sharpness of the blue cheese definitely pulls everything together.  

The last few blog entries here have been sort of leading up this post. They make up three of the components you'll find in this salad. You can probably buy a few of the them, such as the dressing and the fried onions, pre-made. But I can only suggest you don't do it. Make these from scratch. They are so much more fresh and flavorful. It's more effort, yes, but the payoff is truly incomparable. 

This part of the recipe is the easiest. It's the part where all the goodies come together as one. My suggestion is to include all the parts of this salad listed. It's the combo of them all that really sets this one off. 

Wedge Salad



    1. Cut your lettuce head in half. Remove the core from each side. Then cut the halves in half again to form 4 equal wedges. I actually like to cut the quarters in half again and place two wedges on each plate. So basically, you cut the head into eight wedges and each serving gets two wedges. I find this helps the toppings to stay put and not just roll off the top of the wedge and onto the plate. 

    2. Top each serving of lettuce with ranch dressing. 

    3. Then add your remaining toppings to your own taste. The order of ingredients above is the order I prefer to add them but it's up you. I find it keeps all the components visible and therefore aesthetically pleasing. It doesn't really matter, just make sure to get them all!

    Servings: 4

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    Shiitake Bacon:

    Don't Believe Me? Try it. 

    Oh mushrooms. What can I say to you that I haven't said a million times over? I love you unconditionally. You are one of my dearest culinary friends. We go back a long time. A very long time. But you've been keeping a secret from me and, while I'm a little disappointed that you haven't been completely honest with me, I am still truly delighted that you have surprised me in such a wonderful way.      

    At first I was in complete disbelief. Denial, if you will. I said " way that can be true". But then, out of sheer curiosity, I followed the recipe and I'll be damned if you didn't taste like bacon. You never cease to amaze me, my dear, dear friend. 

    Everywhere I turn, it's bacon this and bacon that. While I don't really miss it that much, it does have it's merits, flavorwise. I made these for two reasons. A: I didn't believe it. B: I wanted to top a salad I was making that called for bacon bits. I even got my wife, who HATES mushrooms to try one. It took a lot of coaxing but I eventually got her to take a nibble. Actually it was closer to a lick because she definitely didn't want to commit. But then she kinda perked up a bit and said: "Holy crap, it does taste like bacon". Then she did the unthinkable. Something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. She sprinkled a few on her own salad. What?!!! Score one for the mushrooms!!!

    This is a fun one to make but you have to be very careful with it. The mushrooms that are readily available in my area seem to be pretty small. And the trick to getting this recipe to go right is to have uniformity in your cuts. You want all the slices to be basically the same size. If you don't have that uniformity, they simply won't cook evenly. Some will be under cooked and they don't take on that bacon flavor while others will be over cooked and taste like burnt bacon. Some people like that burnt taste but I don't.
    After I've cut my mushrooms, they would be roughly the size of a quarter that was cut in half. Then, after they are cooked, they will reduce to maybe the size of a dime that was cut in half.

    The video to the original recipe that I found can be viewed here

    Tip: Uniformly cut slices are a must. I cannot emphasize that enough. 

    Tip: Watch these very closely while they are roasting. Make sure to stir every ten minutes and don't allow them to pile on top of each other. My experience with the "half quarter" sized cut is that they take roughly 30 minutes. Larger cuts obviously will take longer. And taste them each time you stir them. You want them a little crisp. 

    Shiitake Bacon


    • 3 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms. Cut uniformly in size to about half the size of a quarter.
    • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 


      1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 

      2. Place your sliced mushrooms in a bowl.

      3. Drizzle with olive oil and then add the salt. Stir with a spoon until the oil and salt evenly coats the mushrooms. 

      4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the mushrooms onto the baking sheet making sure they are in one even layer and not piled on top of each other. 

      3. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. You must stir them every 10 minutes. Roasting time will vary depending on the size of the cut. If you cut the mushrooms to the "half quarter" size, they will take approximately 30 minutes. However that cook time will be longer if the mushrooms are cut larger. Make sure you don't over cook the mushrooms because they will taste like burnt bacon. If you get that far, you gotta start again so be careful! 

      Servings: As a salad topping, serves 4-5.

      Monday, January 13, 2014

      Crispy Fried Onions:

      Or Whatever They're Called

      If you search for fried onions online, a bunch of recipes come up with different names. After sifting through several of them, I came to the realization that they are essentially all the same thing. Fried onions, crispy fried onions, french fried onions, onion strings, deep fried onions......and the list goes on. Call them what you will. I call them delicious.   

      The great thing about these little delights is that they can be used for a number of different things. You can use them to top a green bean casserole, on top of a wedge salad, or just to eat all by themselves with some ranch dressing or ketchup. 

      My inspiration for wanting to make these came rather recently. Lately, I've been on about this wedge salad I had that I fell in love with. But I've made these to go as a side with a nice fresh veggie sandwich. I love a good cold and crisp veggie sandwich on toasted bread. Think BLT without the B. But instead maybe some avocado and cucumber. Put that on a plate with some of these and you, my friend, are good to go!  

      This recipe is basically the same as this one but with some minor changes. It comes The Pioneer Woman. I dig her recipes. 

      Crispy Fried Onions


      • 1 white or yellow onion
      • 1-2 cups buttermilk
      • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
      • 1 Tbsp salt
      • 1/2 tsp black pepper
      • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
      • 1 quart peanut oil (or other veggie oil, I just prefer peanut oil)


        1. Peel and slice the onion into 1/4 inch rings. 

        2. Place onion rings into a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let set in the butter milk for 1 hour.

        3. In another bowl, add the flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir with a fork to combine. 

        4. In a pot, add the oil and, using a candy thermometer, bring to a temperature of 375°. Be careful not to go much higher than that. You'll burn your oil and burn your onions. 

        5. Working in batches, use tongs to pull some of the onion rings (about 1/4 of them) from the buttermilk and shake off the excess buttermilk. Add them to the flour mixture and coat. Shake off the excess flour and drop them into your oil. Use your tongs to move the rings around in the oil to keep them from sticking together. 

        6. Once golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Continue with your remaining batches. 

        Servings: Depends on your use. As a side, serves 2. If topping salads, serves 10.   

        Sunday, January 5, 2014

        Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:

        Simple and Delicious

        I never was one to dip fries into ranch dressing. After all, I'm a card carrying ketchup fan (although that is slowly dying in me and for that I mourn). But there is a restaurant chain that I frequent that pretty much just brings ranch dressing with your fries and I gotta say, it's grown on me. And it's not like the kind you find in the bottle, which is fine I suppose, but the bottled ranch dressing never really grabbed me either. In fact, there isn't a bottled dressing out there that I truly love. I seem to have better luck making my own. 

        With my new found love of fries dipped into ranch, I embarked on a mission to find a good ranch dressing recipe that would rival the ones I find in restaurants. And I did find one a while back that is really good, but in it's own "very tasty but not really authentic" kinda way. I do like it and I've used that recipe for a while now but it's more complicated than I think is necessary and it wasn't what I really wanted.  

        Then a few weeks ago, my wife were out for a bit of lunch and the place we were eating at had a wedge salad on the menu. Now I know these things have been around for a while but some reason, I've never had one before. Why? I don't know, I just never did. I'm slow sometimes. Hell, I only realized three years ago that Led Zeppelin was a kickass band . So I ordered one of these things and I was instantly hooked.

        I came home and searched online for recipes to make my own. Don't laugh. I get that it's pretty self explanatory by just looking at the thing but I looked anyway. I'm weird that way. But I'm glad I did because it inadvertently lead me to the inspiration for this recipe. 

        I'm sure I don't have tell you that sometimes, simple is better, less is more, etc. And that is certainly the case here. This recipe is easy and quick and delicious.

        This recipe was inspired by this one here.

        Buttermilk Ranch Dressing


        • 3/4 cup buttermilk
        • 5 Tbsp sour cream
        • 6 Tbsp mayonnaise
        • 1 Tbsp chives, chopped
        • 1 clove garlic, minced
        • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
        • a few dashes of hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
        • salt and pepper to taste


          1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. 

          Makes about 1 1/2 cups