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Wednesday, 06 January 2016 14:41

Wedge salad a perfect post-holiday meal

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Lately, I learned something I thought I knew.

It was mid December, and well into the holiday melee, when my resolve finally crumbled and, with need of some liquid courage, I reached for the season’s first litre of eggnog.
Now, let it be said that I should’ve known better than to reach for what I reached. The clues were already there.
First, it was called “Holiday Nog,” with no mention of eggs.
Second and third, it boasted 80 per cent less fat and 60 per cent fewer calories.
And, while I’d love to think it’s possible, without consequences, to strip a luxury of what makes it luxurious, fatless eggnog is no eggnog at all. No matter how its glossy packaging might fuddle my senses.
Yet, into my cart it went, even though the liquid inside the bottle did glop back and forth, while the voice in my head cried, “Eggnog doesn’t come from the produce aisle!”
Once home, and upon pouring a glass, I learned that proper eggnog not only does not come from the produce aisle, but also does not star among its ingredients skim milk (to qualify as a dairy product), filtered water (for that rich, from-the-tap goodness), agave nectar (still sugar, despite the hype), carrot juice (to simulate that yolk-y yellow) and gellan gum (to thicken, emulsify and stabilize that which should never have graduated from the test tube).
After a week of taking up room in the fridge, the carrot nog, having inspired no faith that it might be successfully baked into a pudding, glopped down the drain with a rinse of regret.
Lesson learned. Again.
And although it was a lesson that may only benefit others, specifically, for another week or so, I hope to always remember that good packaging can trump good sense, and no eggnog is better than bad eggnog.
Likewise, cheese and its counterfeit: Light Cheese.
On the same day in December, over in the dairy case now, I selected a brick of cheddar and ticked another item off my list.
I would love to say that I always buy cheese from a specialty shop. Likewise that my cheddar is never, ever orange, nor factory made, nor the product of a company that’s currently lobbying the government to relax rules requiring the use of dairy ingredients in dairy products.
But there I was, charging into the pre-holiday store-sampling frenzy, and when the first cheddar I reached announced itself to be “Old” enough, I didn’t ask to see its ID.
Old cheddar is a must. Extra old white cheddar is what I wanted. Middle-aged diet cheddar is just cheese having an identity crisis. It shares several properties with plasticine.
 Suffice to say, it was a failed shopping trip. At least in part.
Elsewhere in my shopping trolly, however, were worthwhile ingredients that, if assembled well, would amount to a wedge salad, complete with hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, crispy bacon, crumbled blue cheese and homemade buttermilk bacon dressing.
It may not atone for Holiday pseudo-Nog and Cheddar Light, but it’s January now. A fresh year. A fresh start. A new chance to learn from old mistakes.
Bacon Buttermilk Dressing/Wedge Salad
2 green onions
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 slices bacon (plus more for salad: see below)
2 tbs bacon drippings
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
3 drops Tabasco sauce
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Finely slice green onions (green parts only). Cook bacon (reserve drippings and drain slices on a paper towel-lined plate), then coarsely chop.
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayo, buttermilk, bacon drippings, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Fold in green onions and bacon. Season to taste. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow flavours to blend.
For 6 wedge salads:
1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into wedges
6 slices bacon, cooked crispy
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
bacon buttermilk dressing
crumbled blue cheese
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
For each serving, arrange a wedge of lettuce on a plate, along with tomato and egg slices. Drizzle with dressing. Add bacon and crumbled blue cheese. Finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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