Although I love to cook, there are days I just can’t face the whole process; on those infrequent occasions, Beloved takes me out to eat. On average, we eat out twice a month for dinner, and once a week for lunch (it really all depends on whether or not there are any leftovers from the night before). And like most people, we have a few restaurants we frequent more than others.
One of these is a little place just down the street from us. While they claim they offer “upscale, casual dining” it’s really just a glorified pizza joint; they have a huge wood-fired oven and do a brisk business in “specialty” pizzas and pasta dishes (they also have an extensive wine list and martini menu). There are specials every evening – frequently featuring local and seasonal ingredients, these are often quite good – and they have a limited, but quite tasty, selection of steaks and salads.
One such salad is The Wedge, and if last Friday night was any indication it is by far the most popular salad they sell – it is certainly my favorite. Consisting of a large wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with honey-cured bacon, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese and drizzled with ranch dressing, it is a meal in itself when coupled with a portion of quality protein. In fact, one of the menu offerings is The Grilled Steak Wedge – the salad accompanied by a 7-ounce sirloin steak, cooked to your specifications.
In the absence of an appealing special (since I’m not so crazy about either pizza or pasta), this is my choice each and every time. I’m so fond of the salad, in fact, that I’ve recreated it here. Since honey-cured bacon is hard to come by, I glazed some thick-sliced, peppered bacon with Dijon mustard and brown sugar, and topped it with a homemade Ranch dressing that is simply to die for – honestly, after making (and tasting) this simple recipe, you will never purchase a commercial Ranch dressing again. It is that good.
Oh, that sad, mournful sound you hear? I’m afraid that’s Beloved, trapped in the boondocks of northern Montana and eating dinner at Appleby’s. Poor guy…
1 large head of iceberg lettuce, quartered
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 pound thick-sliced bacon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons powdered cultured buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil; place a baker’s cooling rack on top. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Cut the bacon slices in half; place them in a medium bowl with the tablespoon of Dijon mustard and toss to coat. Lay the bacon slices out on the rack and sprinkle evenly and generously with the brown sugar. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 18 – 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and glazed. Once it is cool enough to handle, chop roughly; set aside.
While the bacon is cooking, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, powdered buttermilk, lemon juice, parsley, chives and mustard until smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper; pour into a clean container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place one wedge of the lettuce on a plate; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 of the glazed bacon, 1/4 of the diced tomato and 1/4 of the shredded cheese. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the Ranch dressing and serve.