Why A Favorite Comfort-Food Salad Will Always Be A Wedge

admin | August 12th, 2015 - 6:26 pm

Here’s a wedge salad plan of attack. Stab the fork at the bull’s-eye and extract the dense, yellow-white, bigger-than-bite-size chunk of iceberg lettuce in the center. If that piece isn’t covered with a swath of dressing, a modicum of blue cheese and a crumble of bacon, maneuver your knife to make that happen. If you can manage to get diced tomato into the equation, so much the better. Move your head closer to the plate, bring the fork to your mouth and stuff it in. Revel in the satisfaction of the cool crunch mixed with tang, creaminess, fat and smoke. Repeat with the rest of the salad.

As a comfort food, the wedge salad is right up there with macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in the 1970s, when lettuce meant iceberg and romaine was something fancy used only for Caesar salad.

A salad was part of dinner every night, and the easiest way to make one was to cut the iceberg head into four wedges and plunk various flavors of bottled dressing on the table: Catalina, French, blue cheese, Thousand Island, Russian and creamy Italian. Plus the cruet of Good Seasons Italian dressing made “fresh” by mixing a flavor packet with oil and vinegar.

In restaurants, creamy dressing, usually blue cheese, coated head-lettuce salad. Somewhere along the way, bacon got added to the mix, and the wedge salad was born and became a steakhouse mainstay.

Until the 1920s, iceberg was known as crisphead lettuce. It came to be called iceberg because it was packed in ice for rail shipping. That it was less delicate than other lettuce varieties, could endure cross-country travel well and had a long shelf life ensured its hold on the market.  Other greens gained prominence in the ’80s and beyond, but iceberg still goes strong

Myriad interpretations around town in Washington, DC play fast and loose with embellishments, among them aged Gouda, cured tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, pickled onions, pork belly, walnuts, brioche croutons, roasted red peppers, scallions, Granny Smith apples, even batter-fried red onion petals.

So when one chef set out to rethink his own approaches to wedge salad, he asked myself, “What is non-negotiable­?” For him, it’s iceberg, blue cheese and bacon.

Crunch is crucial, so to complement the lettuce’s texture, he sprinkled small dice of bright red radishes, English cucumber and zucchini over my dressed wedge, adding finely diced red onion. Then finished with diced heirloom tomatoes and lots of crumbled best-quality smoked bacon.

As for toppings, this chef took the radish, red onion, avocado and lump crab approach, garnishing with more grated egg, chives and smoked paprika. Considering the oppressive summer heat, he cheated a bit by buying already hard-cooked eggs and precooked bacon strips.

Sounds delicious – might be worth a trip to Washington, DC.
Source:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/why-my-favorite-comfort-food-salad-will-always-be-a-wedge/2015/08/03/c6973f2e-361c-11e5-9739-170df8af8eb9_story.html  8-4-2015

 

 

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