Hankerings’ Caesar Dressing

How do you like your Caesar salad? Are you an extra crouton guy or gal? Dressing on the side? When the waiter comes around, are you insistent on their cranking the pepper mill for an awkwardly long period of time, like me?

I like my topping-to-lettuce proportion to be high – ideally there is barely enough romaine to qualify this as a salad. I’m talking anchovies all over, four-inch-long shavings of parm reg, and a loaf’s worth of croutons on the plate – all coated with a heavy dousing of dressing, a squeeze of lemon and a showering of crushed black peppercorns.

Romaine is the supporting cast in my ideal Caesar salad. It’s there to play host to that medley of saltiness, garlic, briny fish flavor, pepper kick and citric acid.

I want my dressing to incorporate all those yummy add-ons. This dressing does a good job of that.

And because I have vested interest in ensuring your dressing turns out just right, I want to impress upon the importance of using Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Not just in this salad dressing, but all recipes that require mayo.

If I was running for office, their mayonnaise would be in my policy platform. I’ve never been so disappointed with any substitute ingredient in my life – I’m looking at you, Whole Foods’ 365 organic mayonnaise! There’s something about Hellmann’s that helps you forget that you’re eating room-temperature whipped egg yolks and oil. All you know is you’re eating something rich and delicious.

It would be even better if you made your own mayonnaise. I always trust Alton Brown to reveal the best techniques when it comes to specialty cooking processes, and this recipe makes you feel capable of cooking something you might think is too burdensome or overly-complex.

You need and deserve the good stuff – and from experience, it’s a wise move to buy the biggest container you can find. There’s few foods that need to be bought in bulk, and this is one of them.

If you’re a Cesar salad fanatic like me, there’s a lot you will love in this dressing.

All hail King Ceasar! …salad dressing. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 pint dressing.

  • 1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 1 / 3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parm reg
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Whir all the ingredients except the black pepper in a food processor until completely pureed. Stir in the cracked black pepper and put into a glass mason jar. The dressing will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Diner-Style Deviled Ham Hash

In this next post of my “no-no” mystery meat recipe series, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite canned meats – Underwood Deviled Ham.

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If you haven’t had it already, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Not for me of course – I loved it from day one. But it’s as American as red, white and blue. If you didn’t eat it growing up, my gut tells me you might – with an emphasis on the word might – not like trying it for the first time as an adult.

My boyfriend wasn’t a fan. He said he wouldn’t feed it to the dog.

You have to give this a try. For anyone who is familiar with this delectable max-processed delicacy, or still reading even after this cautious introduction, you’ll soon realize this is the breakfast hash that was missing in your life.

Deviled ham has a similar flavor to Spam, or any sodium-heavy canned meat product you’ll find in the grocery store. I used to eat it straight from the can. The most typical way to serve it is between two slices of mayo-smeared white bread topped with iceberg lettuce – right where it belongs.

I’ll usually keep a few cans of Hormel’s Corned Beef Hash in my pantry. This recipe is a home-cooked variation of the canned hash, using fresh potatoes and swapping out the corned beef for the deviled ham.

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The ham and potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Alongside a couple of sunny side up eggs, this is just what the doctor ordered when you’re craving a greasy, filling diner-style breakfast.

I went to town and back on this. I probably met my sodium quota for the month. I don’t know about you – but if this hash gives me yet another excuse to eat deviled ham, my GP and I are completely on board with that.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can Underwood Deviled Ham
  • 1 / 3 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, potato, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are near golden and crisp and the onions are near translucent.
  2. Once the hash is almost done, add the deviled ham. Continue to cook the hash so the ham has a chance to crisp up.
  3. Plate the hash and serve hot, with a couple of sunny side up eggs and hot sauce, if desired.

 

Hot Dogs with Horseradish & Half Sour Slaw

We’ve been opting to cook outside the kitchen and grill on the roof of my apartment complex – and much more lately with the end of summer calling.

Hot dogs have always been my go-to beloved grilling meat. To be specific, Oscar Meier Weiners. This is not a time to be health-conscious folks – it’s a time to enjoy yourself and savor that sulfite-packed meat product you know you want so badly.

Hot dogs are typically not too filling either, so you can fit lots of other grilled meats in your belly. And don’t forget all the best side dishes – my favorites are the classic potato salad, pasta salad and corn on the cob.

(For a spicy, delicious twist on potato salad, try Hankerings’ Spicy Dill Pickle Potato Salad.)

Chicago-style hot dogs throw a speared pickle on top, along with the other musts: sweet relish, white onion, tomatoes, celery salt and peppers.

Now I love the pickle spear concept – I really do. But it can be unwieldy and makes the bun a bit soggy. A slaw creates a much more approachable bite to get through. It’s also a refreshing, cold counterpoint to the grilled dog.

This slaw pulls together the mustard and pickle elements, and the dash of mayo brings yummy richness to the sauce. Horseradish adds some heat. The cabbage does its job adding a much-needed crunch factor. It’s also a super-cinch to make, and flexible depending on the flavors you’d like to amplify, or add.

One steadfast recommendation is to seek out half sour pickles, which can usually be found at your local deli or the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Their flavor is so underrated and incredibly delicious in this recipe.

If you’re a pickle fanatic like me, you’ll enjoy this topping more than you can imagine – and if you have extra, it’d be perfect to add to burgers. Or in my case, great for sneaking bites of on its own!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  H o t  D o g s

  • 2 Oscar Meier Weiner hot dogs
  • 2 hot dog buns (If you can find them, brioche hot dog buns are delicious)

F o r  t h e  H o r s e r a d i s h  &  H a l f – S o u r  S l a w

  • 1 large half-sour pickle, cut into one inch shreds
  • 1 / 3 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. To make the slaw, combine all the slaw ingredients and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture is chilled through.
  2. Turn on the grill, setting it to your preferred temperature.
  3. Slice shallow slits down the hot dogs to allow the more of the surface of hot dog to get crispy.
  4. Put the hot dogs on the grill, cooking until the casing is blistered and lightly blackened. Toast the buns as well, if preferred.
  5. Put the hot dogs in the buns, topping each hot dog with half the slaw. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired. Serve immediately.

Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup

Another rainy day, another bowl of bubbling hot spicy soup. There’s not much else to do when it’s pouring out, and who doesn’t love an excuse to stay at home and cook all day?

I bought too many jalapenos and wanted to find a way to make them the centerpiece of a soup. So here we are – with jalapeno two ways – fresh and smoked.

Smoked jalapenos, if you’re not already familiar, are called chipotle peppers. You can find them canned in their sauce in any grocery store.

Chipotle, as it so happens, is also the namesake of my favorite fast food restaurant. As in, “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat?” – my answer would be Chipotle.  No really – I ate Chipotle 4 to 5 days a week in high school for two years.

The flavor of chipotle is smoky, incredibly hot, and very addictive. I keep bags of it frozen in my freezer. Throw it in anything Tex-Mex – it’s like the Tex-Mex equivalent of barbecue sauce, incredibly versatile.

Your start to this soup is a roux, much like any chowder. It creates a thicker, stewy feel to the soup. I bet chicken and beans would be great in here as well if you wanted to bulk it up a bit, but I’m happiest when I get the full flavor of the cheese and the spices.

What’s your favorite go-to rainy day soup?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 / 3 quart whole milk
  • 1 1 / 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 / 2 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper sauce (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour, stirring for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking until there’s no visible clumps of flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until it thickens and the mixture coats a spoon.
  2. Add the onion, jalapenos, garlic, chipotle peppers, chipotle pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Cook on simmer for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the cheese, and stir until completely incorporated. Serve, garnishing with additional jalapeno slices and a drizzle of extra chipotle pepper sauce, if desired.

Hankerings’ (Not-So-Secret) Ranch Dressing Recipe

If someone were to ask me, “what’s the best salad dressing you ever had?” – I’d actually have an answer for them.

I was sitting at a local bar in New Jersey’s Long Beach Island called the Black Whale, where I was told that I “had to order the house salad.”

For reasons I’m sure you can understand, I had my doubts that this salad would be any good.

The house salad ended up being a house salad. But the house-made ranch dressing they served with it blew my mind.  It came in a glass bottle that the bartenders kept within arm’s reach in the ice machine.

I should’ve known then – when they gave me enough ranch dressing to last a family of four six months – that there was a reason they bring an entire carafe of dressing for a small plate of leaves. Within a matter of minutes, the salad heap was dwindling, but I was still pouring.

I couldn’t have enough of this dressing.

I asked the waitress to see if the chef could do me a huge solid and share the recipe with me.

She came back without a recipe, letting me know the secret was a whole lot of garlic – but not just one type of garlic. There’s fresh and roasted garlic.

So after some drawn-out, nitpicky trial and error, I have created a dressing that tastes nearly identical to what I had at the Black Whale. And I’m very happy about it.

As a self-proclaimed neutral with a capital “N” on salads, it doesn’t mean I can’t still love the dressing we pour over them.

I’ll be posting several more salad dressing recipes in the coming weeks – be sure to check back & see what new concoctions I’ve managed to whip up. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 1 / 2 pints.

  • 1 / 2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 / 3 cup whole milk
  • 1 / 4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 garlic bulb + 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *400.
  2. Cut the garlic bulb in half, rub with olive oil, and place in foil on a sheet pan or the oven rack. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, until the garlic flesh is browned but not burnt.
  3. Once cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves from half the bulb, discarding the skins. Since you already put in all the work, save the remaining half of the roasted garlic.
  4. Put the roasted garlic and all the remaining ingredients in a food processor, whirring until all the herbs & garlic cloves are completely emulsified.
  5. Set in the fridge for as long as possible so the flavors can mingle with each other. The dressing will last 7 to 10 days in the fridge.

Overstuffed Olive & Pimento Grilled Cheese

I was big on dirty martinis from an early (note: legal) age.

This olive juice craze gave rise to many abandoned, juiceless jars of olives. I began to look for recipes to use up this massive surplus. In little time I was routinely making batches of – you guessed it – pimento cheese dip – that included the olives as well as the pimentos inside.

I have historically relied on Southern cooking tradition in assuming there are few acceptable ways to serve pimento cheese.

On crackers.

In a sandwich.

But even with its alleged limited applications, I would list pimento cheese as one of my top desert island foods. When you’d eat it with a spoon, that’s when you know.

The other reason to love pimento cheese so much? There’s barely any ingredients! So it’s an ideal whip-together-at-the-last-minute dish made of things you very likely have in your fridge right now.

So as a service to both you and I, I put my head to paper and came up with a list to get me ruminating on how I can justify eating more of it, for those occasions when I make it in alarmingly huge quantities.

  • Mixed into macaroni and cheese
  • Stuffed in enchiladas
  • Mixed into broccoli cheddar soup
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Topping fries
  • Mixed into a soufflé
  • Topping a burger
  • Mixed into risotto
  • On pizza
  • On a Philly cheesesteak
  • Mixed into cream cheese
  • Stuffed in chicken breasts
  • Mixed into grits
  • Rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Mixed into pasta carbonara
  • Stuffed in homemade ravioli
  • Melted inside quesadillas

Let me know if you have, want to, or will give any of these a try. I’d love to hear what the results were!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

I like my grilled cheese to have much more “cheese” than “grilled.” You may see me dipping my sandwich into the cheese that oozes out from time to time. So if this recipe is a bit too cheesy for you, just halve the cheese quantities to make it a bit less melty and more manageable.

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz. pimento-stuffed olives, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. On medium-low heat, heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet. Place one piece of the bread down, slathering with the entirety of the cheese mixture, being sure to cover the edges completely. Top with the second piece of bread, smush down, and cover the skillet with a lid to allow for the cheese to melt.
  2. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the sandwich, adding the additional tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the grilled cheese, cut diagonally, and serve oozing and hot.