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Archive for March 10, 2017

FOOD HOLIDAY: National Ranch Dressing Day & The History Of Ranch Dressing

Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

Kraft Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Casserole With Ranch Dressing

[1] America’s #1 bottled dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, and [2] Kraft, a runner-up. Note that both are labeled both ranch and buttermilk. [3] The dressing is used to top tacos, pizzas, and casseroles like this one. Here’s the recipe from Kraft.

 

March 10th is National Ranch Dressing Day.

Based on sales of bottled dressing, Ranch is America’s favorite. It surpassed the previous favorite, Italian dressing, way back in 1992.

Ranch dressing is made of buttermilk, mayonnaise, seasonings (black pepper, garlic, ground mustard seed, lemon juice, paprika) and herbs (chives, parsley, and dill). Sour cream or yogurt are sometimes used for all or part of the buttermilk or mayonnaise.

Here’s some little-known food history:

You heard it here first: ranch and buttermilk are the same dressing. Buttermilk dressing, which has been made in the southern U.S. for centuries, has the same recipe.

Look closely at recipes and packaged dressings. Many have both “buttermilk” and “ranch” in the title or on the label.

HISTORY OF RANCH DRESSING

By the late 1800s, the naturally-occurring sour milk, called buttermilk, was popular in baked goods, for marinating chicken, as a health food at spas and sanitariums, and other applications.

Printed recipes for buttermilk dressing go back more than 100 years in southern cookbooks.

The original was a boiled dressing made with eggs, vinegar, buttermilk, herbs and spices. (Famed restaurant critic Craig Claiborne, a Southern boy, hated it.)

With the advent of commercial mayonnaise in the 1930s, it became easier to make, and no boiling was required.

As modern refrigeration (in the form of the ice box) became commonplace in homes, the milk no longer soured. Commercial dairies began to culture it, and sold the buttermilk we know today beginning in the 1920s.

But before then, the dressing became popular among cowboys. With a wealth of cattle, buttermilk was more available on the High Plains* than vegetable oils. The chuck wagons dished out creamy buttermilk-based dressings for a long time [source].

Here’s a longer discussion of the evolution of buttermilk.

In the early 1950s, Steve Henson, a Nebraskan working in the Alaska bush, created a dressing for his crew from buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise and seasonings: garlic, herbs and spices, onions and salt.

In 1954, Steve and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains, near Santa Barbara, California. They served the dressing to guests and called it ranch dressing.

Aha!

It was very popular, and guests asked to buy it to take home. The Hensons sold it both as a finished product and as packets of dry mix to be combined with mayonnaise and buttermilk.

Demand for the dressing grew much more than demand for bookings at the ranch. The Hidden Valley Ranch Food Products was incorporated and a factory established.

The dressing was first distributed to supermarkets in the California and the Southwest, and eventually, nationwide. The brand was purchased by Clorox and the ranch sold.

And now you know how old-fashioned buttermilk dressing turned into the more intriguing-sounding ranch dressing.

 
HOW TO USE RANCH DRESSING

Ranch dressing is common in the U.S. as a salad dressing and a dip for crudités. It is also used:

  • As a dip for chips and pretzels.
  • As a dip or sauce for fried food: chicken fingers, French fries, fried mushrooms, fried onion rings, fried pickles, fried zucchini, hushpuppies, jalapeño poppers.
  • As a condiment or sauce for baked potatoes, burgers, casseroles, chicken wings, pizza, tacos, wraps and other sandwiches; and with seafood such as Arctic char, lobster, salmon and shrimp.
  • According to an article on ranch dressing facts, Melissa McCarthy and Courteney Cox have been known to chug it, and Katy Perry insists on ranch in her backstage rider (what is available in her dressing room).

    ________________

    *The High Plains comprise southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and south of the Texas Panhandle.

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    WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR OWN RANCH DRESSING

    Be Food Smart researched America’s favorite dressing, Hidden Valley Ranch, to point out the brand promise vis-à-vis the actual ingredients. Here’s their full article, but the highlights:

    What the brand’s website says:

    Our Original Ranch® recipes are made with wholesome ingredients and the perfect blend of herbs and spices. Enjoy the farm fresh taste of Hidden Valley® in our ranch dressing mixes, dips and salad toppings.

    The actual ingredient list:

    INGREDIENTS: Soybean oil, water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavors (soy), spices, less than 1% of: dried garlic, dried onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutatmate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.

    Not exactly wholesome or farm fresh!

    So, time to really know how good ranch is, by making your own. We adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes.

    Make your own buttermilk. You don’t have to buy a quart of buttermilk. You can make 1 cup of buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or vinegar to a one-cup measure, plus enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let sit.

    Turn buttermilk/ranch into blue cheese dressing. Just stir in 1/2 cup crumbled quality blue cheese at the end.

    RECIPE: BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING

    Ingredients For 1.5 Cups

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped (substitute 1/4 teaspoon of dry dill, but nothing beats fresh)
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    Variations

    There are many variations on the original ranch recipe. Anyone can adjust the seasonings in the recipe above to bring out the flavors you like. You can also switch them out; for example:

  • A blend of Greek yogurt (1/3) and buttermilk (2/3).
  • Apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice.
  • Cayenne instead of black pepper.
  • Dijon mustard instead of powdered mustard.
  • Minced garlic clove or 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Scallions instead of minced chives—and more of them!
  • Tarragon instead of dill.
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    Preparation

     

    Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

    Wedge Salad Buttermilk Dressing

    Crudites Plate

    [4] Freshly made buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Little Broken. [5] A wedge salad with buttermilk/ranch dressing. Here’s the recipe from Creative Culinary. [6] Crudités with buttermilk/ranch dressing, from Good Cheap Eats.

     
    1. WHISK together the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. When fully combined, blend in the other ingredients. That’s it!

    2. COVER and refrigerate. It will keep a few weeks.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Ways To Flavor Meatballs, Part 2

    Chicken Meatballs

    Foie Gras Stuffed Meatballs

    Tuna Meatballs

    Keftedes Appetizer

    Indian Meatballs

    Albondigas Soup

    [1] Chicken meatballs served with a vegetable patty and artistic salad, at Ikea. [2] Meatballs stuffed with foie gras at Cheu Noodle Bar (photo courtesy Tina Wong | The Wandering Eater). [3] Polpette de tonno, tuna meatballs. Here’s the recipe from Ricette Della Nonna. [4] Keftedes, Greek meatballs. Here’s the recipe from Bowl of Delicious. [5] Indian spices and pappadums make these meatballs special. Here’s the recipe from BBC Good Food. [6] Albondigas, Mexican meatballs served in soup. Here’s the recipe from Fresh By Northwest.

     

    Yesterday we featured the first five of ten meatball trends.

    To sum up, the first five include:

  • Stuffed Meatballs
  • Lamb Meatballs
  • Asian Meatballs
  • Floating Meatballs
  • Vegetarian & Vegan Meatballs
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    Today we finish the list.

    6. POULTRY MEATBALLS

    For health and sustainability, chicken (photo #1) and turkey meatballs have become popular over the last two decades. Duck meatballs have become the darlings of some chefs, who grind their own duck meat.

    If you don’t already serve poultry meatballs, expand your repertoire in traditional ways (with spaghetti, on heros) and new ones.

  • Substitute chicken or turkey meatballs for the chicken breast in stir-fries, sweet-and-sour dishes, General Tso’s Chicken and other Asian-style recipes.
  • Present chicken meatballs Buffalo-style. Roll them in hot sauce and serve with blue cheese dressing and celery and carrot sticks.
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    Restaurant Creations:

  • Turkey meatballs mixed with onions, celery, and carrots; served with cranberry jelly and a traditional gravy at the Meatball Room, Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Chicken meatballs seasoned with herbs and a hint of red pepper, sprinkled with Italian cheeses and served in a zesty marinara sauce at Olive Garden.
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    7. UPSCALE MEATBALLS

    Traditionally, meatballs have been a more economical way to enjoy meat. But you can reverse the situation by adding higher-end ingredients.

  • Create a luxe meatball stuffed with foie gras and minced truffles (photo #2).
  • Make a “surf and turf” meatball stuffed with chopped lobster, shrimp or crab.
  • Blend chopped chuck with pricer cuts, like brisket and short rib.
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    Restaurant Creations:

  • Foie gras-stuffed meatballs with plum sauce at Cheu Noodle Bar in Philadelphia.
  • Grilled beef meatballs with braised beet greens, sofrito and tomatoes, at Bestia in Los Angeles.
  • Duck Meatballs alla Toscana filled with fontina, parmesan and provolone, porcini mushrooms, whipped ricotta, mascarpone and dried cherries, in a port wine and veal reduction, at Fresco by Scotto in New York City.
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    8. SEAFOOD MEATBALLS

    If fish or shellfish can be formed into burgers, patties or cakes, then they can be formed into meatballs.

  • See what other cultures are doing with ground or minced seafood, such as French quenelles, Thai fish cakes, Chinese fish balls and Japanese take yaki (octopus balls).
  • Ground fresh tuna and other meaty fish are especially adaptable to an Italian-style meatball, like Sicilian polpette di tonno (photo #3).
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    Restaurant Creations:

  • Polpette di Pesce Spada: baked swordfish meatballs simmered in a spicy homemade tartar sauce. at Calabria Restaurant & Pizzeria, Livingston, N.J.
  • Oyster Room Meatball Sub: pork-oyster meatballs, napa cabbage slaw, smoked oyster mayonnaise, ciabatta bread, at Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room, Portland, Maine.
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    9. INTERNATIONAL MEATBALLS

    You can find meatballs almost everywhere around the globe: kofte (Middle Eastern); bun cha (Vietnamese); frikadeller (Danish); bakso (Indonesian); klopsiki (Polish); kofta (Indian). Go global with international recipes (photo #5), or just use the country’s signature spices in your own meatballs.

  • Mix ground pork, grated Manchego and pimentón, and serve on a toothpick with a roasted piquillo pepper sauce or saffron aïoli.
  • Turn your favorite global flavors—allspice, cumin, curry, harissa, garam masala, etc.—into meatball seasonings.
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    Restaurant Creations:

  • Mexican albondigas with salsa verde, cotija, pine nut, fried egg and masa (corn) cake at Bar Amá in Los Angeles.
  • Greek keftedes (photos #4 and #5), fried meatballs of ground beef and lamb with garlic, onions and mint, at Alchemy in San Diego.
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    10. SPICY MEATBALLS

    In 1969, Alka-Seltzer famously based a commercial on the line uttered by a man who had eaten a too-spicy meatball: “Mama mia, that’s a spicy meatball!” If you’re old enough to remember, you may still use that line, along with “Where’s the beef” and other classics.

    Things have changed a lot since then. Americans have embraced heat, from chiles and hot sauces, in just about everything. So the Alka-Selter wouldn’t eat today higher spice levels. Instead, consider:

  • Add smoky heat to the ground meat or its sauce via chipotle in adobo sauce.
  • Use an on-trend condiment such as sriracha or Korean gochujang to add heat to meatballs.
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    Restaurant Creations:

  • Spicy ricotta meatballs: beef, veal and ricotta meatballs with red chiles and caramelized onions, at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, 30 locations nationwide.
  • Chorizo meatballs, with roasted tomatoes, celery heart and onion, saffron with pecorino gratinée, at Soya & Pomodoro, Miami.
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    Don’t forget to plan a meatball party to enjoy the whole group.

    Back to Part 1.

     
    MORE MEATBALLS

  • Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
  • Eyeball Meatball Sandwich (for kids)
  • Giant Meatball
  • Gourmet Meatball Sub
  • Inside-Out Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Korean Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Spaghetti & Meatball Sundae
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Veal Meatballs With Vodka
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