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  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

Reviving Tradition: The Irresistible Charm of the Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing


Wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and crisp prosciutto
Wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and crisp prosciutto

I am not sure why, but I have been an iceberg lettuce snob for many years.  I guess I always thought it was lacking in flavor and nutrients and was pretty basic.  However, I ordered a wedge salad while out a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it.  It was the cold crunchiness of the iceberg that really made it stand out.  I think one of the keys was that it was really cold. Sometimes cold can mute flavors, but not in this instance.  So then I thought, I really should try this with my blue cheese dressing and add a little bling.  


I tinkered a bit and made it a couple of times with my blue cheese dressing.  I love it!   I have also served it as the salad course at a pizza party night with a group of friends.  Everyone really enjoyed it.  So I thought it was time to share. 


I will break this down into components: the lettuce, the garnishes/flavor bombs and the dressing. 


Iceberg Lettuce


I like to choose a nice fresh and tight head of lettuce.  When prepping it, I remove the core and cut it into wedges.  Typically, I get six wedges out of a normal sized head of lettuce.  

To remove the core,  I grab the head from the top and bang it straight down on the counter.  If the core does not release easily by pulling it, it might need a second bang. I typically then remove the outer leaves. 


I then cut the head into appropriate serving portions. Cut it pole to pole or top to core.  Just be careful since you no longer have the core holding it together.  I somehow acquired one of those plastic lettuce knives at one point…it just does not get the job done. Use a serrated bread knife for this task. 


I then place them on a sheet tray and into the refrigerator until serving time.  It may be my imagination, but I think the cut lettuce seems to get colder and crisper.  You could also plate them and place them in the fridge at this point.  This just takes up way too much room for me. 

 

Chilled plates are a must.  If chilling on a sheet tray and not the serving plates, also put the plates in the refrigerator.  


Garnishes / Flavor Bomb


I really love to add color and flavor to this.  One of my favorites to add are finely julienned carrots.  Do you have a tool to julienne carrots?  I have a peeler that juliennes them.  It really makes quick work of it.  Not only do I use this for salad prep, but also for things like stir fry.


I have also scattered around some cherry or grape tomatoes.  This adds a great color and always seem to be in season and sweet.  I would just recommend cutting them in half and adding a little salt and pepper to them in a bowl prior to assembly.  


My favorite topping is a full piece of prosciutto that has been crisped.  First of all, I do use a German prosciutto from a company called Stockmeyer.  I buy this at Trader Joe’s. Prosciutto is typically aged but not smoked.  Stockmeyer prosciutto has an awesome hint of smoke that is a game changer for me.  If you can't get your hands on Stockmeyer, any prosciutto will be great!  


To crisp the prosciutto, I use two small sheet trays.  I line one sheet tray with parchment paper.  I then lay one piece of prosciutto per serving on the parchment paper.  Then place another sheet of parchment on top of the prosciutto. Place the second sheet tray on top of the second parchment and press down.  The goal here is to keep the prosciutto from curling up during baking.  I then bake at 375 F for about 25 minutes.  Yes, the prosciutto is covered with a sheet pan. I start checking the prosciutto at about the 20 minute mark.  I end up taking it out of the oven to take off the top sheet tray and parchment to check.  At this point, it should be close to ready. If not ready, you can put it back in the oven for a couple of more minutes without the covering.  Once you take it out, the prosciutto will crisp up like glass as it cools.  


You can certainly also use bacon crumbles, but the prosciutto is a winner! 


The Blue Cheese Dressing


I have always been a fan of blue cheese.  I lived in the Iowa area for a bit more than ten years.  While there, I was introduced to Maytag Blue Cheese.  Yep, the same family that started the appliance business. They have prized cows which source the milk for their highly awarded cheese.   In the summer, they were often present at the downtown Des Moines farmers market.  I would go just to buy a wheel of cheese.  The prices were excellent.  I would cut it into chunks, vacuum seal them and freeze them.  When they were not at the market and I needed a fix, I would go to their farm in Newton Iowa.  If you ever have a chance to visit, make it a priority!


The Ingredients


  • Mayonnaise – Use your favorite mayo here or try our homemade mayonnaise.  

  • Sour cream – This lightens it up a bit and provides a slight tang. 

  • Blue Cheese –  Use your favorite blue cheese.  For special occasions, splurge for a top quality blue like Maytag. Point Reyes also makes really nice and affordable blue cheese.  You can also go with other types of blue cheeses such as Roquefort or gorgonzola.  

  • Red wine vinegar –  This helps balance flavors.  You can also substitute with other acids, such as lemon juice. 

  • Worcestershire sauce –  It is a small amount but adds a nice undertone to the flavor.

  • Buttermilk –  I never have buttermilk.  I also rarely buy it since I usually need a small amount.  I substitute with half and half and a splash of white vinegar. I just let that sit for 15 minutes before incorporating.  I will also make buttermilk using buttermilk powder.   When looking to change things up, I mix our homemade ranch powder with some milk.  It adds some additional herbs and flavors. 

  • Garlic powder – I use granulated garlic here

  • Sugar – This is a recent addition to the recipe.  It is a small amount but really amps up the flavor.  You can omit it or substitute with a sweetener of your choice. 

  • Black pepper

  • Salt to taste

Instructions


  • Freeze the block of blue cheese until firm (approximately 30 minutes). I learned this trick from internet famous chef John. Grate half of the cheese with the fine side of a box grater or a microplane. This is the key to increasing the blue cheese flavor in your dressing.  Some folks smash it into the dressing, but you still end up with chunks.  This method will ensure that every bite  contains evenly distributed flavor. 

  • Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl except the remaining chunk of blue cheese.  Chop the remaining blue cheese into small crumbles.

  • Add half of the crumbles to the dressing and reserve the rest to sprinkle on the salad.  

  • Refrigerate for at least two hours prior to use.  This will ensure that the flavors meld.

  • You may find that the dressing has thickened in the refrigerator.  You can use milk to thin it to your desired consistency. 




If you like this recipe, check my blog on vinaigrettes and my simple Caesar dressing.



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