Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rancho Deluxe

I like the taste of ranch dressing, although I hate the taste of commercial, bottled ranch dressing; I've never found one worth buying.
But I do like the taste of fresh ranch dressing. Oh, I probably am reacting happily to some jangly chemicals in the packet of dressing powder mix that gets stirred into buttermilk and mayonnaise, the way I react happily to Doritos orange powder magic. Is powdered ranch dressing even "fresh"?
I looked up some recipes for ranch dressing online today, and learned that MSG is a key ingredient... according to some people. That could be the chemical I react to, but who keeps MSG in their pantry?
I needed to make up some ranch dip last night.
I knew that buttermilk was the backbone of the recipe, but there was none in the fridge. What I did have was yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream. So I would have to improvise.
I have tasted ranch-like dressings, memorably one made from crème fraîche. I'm sure there was no MSG, or even buttermilk. I just remember it was really nice.
You go to war with the army you have.
So I smoothed out some cottage cheese with a potato masher, and stirred in sour cream and yogurt until I got a nice consistency. No mayonnaise. I forgot about it, actually, but it wasn't needed.
Then it was time to season this mess. Honestly, I had no idea what seasonings go into "Ranch." I winged it. Totally made it up.
I crushed some dried Mexican oregano between my palms. And then a little more. Next, dried dill. I think dried dill is kind of silly, but for some reason I have two jars of it, so it must have seemed like the right thing to do. I did it.
Finally, I dusted this concoction with garlic powder. Yes, there is dried garlic powder chez Crumb, and we have one or two constant and sometimes urgent reasons for that. I will tell you for ten dollars.
That's all. I let it sit for several minutes to develop, and then we devoured it with carrots, cucumbers, celery and tender hearts of baby romaine. Dunkin' snack-style.
It tasted COMPLETELY ranchy. Just a few, mere, simple ingredients — all dried, gosh darn it — stirred into some dairy, and it was ranch.
I am so not ashamed.
I am proud.


kudzu said...

Ha -- the army that you have!...I, too, am a ranch fan, and I am unashamed. I know it has been responsible for the consumption of veggies by many kids, though I do draw the line at the teens I saw dipping slices of pizza into it at Rocco's in Mill Valley one lunchtime...And there's nothing wrong with garlic powder, esp. when you have some made for you by an organic gardener in Mendocino....A lot of Southern cooking depended on dried herbs and blends because they kept well in heat and humidity when fresh ones faded so quickly...But you still can't sell me on Doritos.

KT said...

Ranch-cho ho!! Sounds great! Can you send me some? I'm caring for six bunnies for four days and you wouldn't believe the veggies they eat. Mega-romaine and carrots. I have some left over and would like some o' yo' dressing. I ordered a Wendy's crispy chicken sandwich on March 31 and bit into a giant CLAW with part of the foot (I assume) attached. Euuuu. So I wasn't eating beef or pork and NOW chicken. So veggies are very important to me. And the bunnies. Woof to Crumb, Cranky and the little woofer from the land o' aloha. XXKT

Dagny said...

Congrats on a successful experiment!

In the future, if you don't have any buttermilk, you can usually just sour some regular milk with a little vinegar or some other acid. I've done this when making blue cheese dressing in the past.

chilebrown said...

My Mom would make Thousand Island Dressing. Mayo,ketchup and pickle relish, thats it. I still love it today!

katiez said...

I love Ranch dressing - but it's not an option here in any form.
I use yougurt (Greek, preferably), a bit of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder and whatever herbs tickle my fancy.
And how can you have 'fat-free' salad dressing when the basis should be olive (or other) oil? I read the list of ingredients (last trip back) and decided I needed a chemistry degree...

Anonymous said...

hey kudzu...have you ever tried pizza dipped in ranch? its UNBELIEVABLE. mmm mmm. if you dip the crust its like having breadsticks with your meal...

Holler said...

Hi there,
What a great photo!
The ranch dressing sounds good! I like the idea of putting cottage cheese through my potato ricer!
Dill is great in potato salad, with mayo or sour cream, spring onions and a some freshly ground black pepper! lots of dill!

kudzu said...

Ooooh, anonymous: I married into an Italian family and am afraid I would lose all my cred if I dipped pizza into ranch. They are so pure we do not eat bread (sticks, ciabatta, whatever) when there is pasta as a main dish. BTW the pizzeria I mentioned is owned by Brazilians -- but the slices are still pretty good.

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Thank you for getting my snark. How cool that you like ranch too. It is liberating to talk to true foodies and be validated in one's taste for whatever. Sorry Doritos doesn't do it for you, but that is a household emergency staple here, for various reasons. I must learn more about your organic garlic powder!

KT: Hey, girlie. I wish I could send you some, but it'd be a total mess before it arrived in Honolulu.
Bunnies! What fun. I hope it's fun, I mean.
Woof to you and yours!!

Dagny: It's fun to re-invent a standard. Although I'm pretty suspicious of those web sites that purport to re-create Twinkies and the like.
Thanks for the alternative to buttermilk. (Oddly, I love the stuff and usually have some in the house...)

Chilebrown: I'm thinking of a '60s party, with '60s food. That would work.

Katie: No, it's not an option where you are. It's no longer a commercial option where I am. Try it my way! AND! Oh, a cook in France uses garlic powder? *Redemption*.

Anonymous: She might not like it, but I've got to try it!

Holler: I don't know why I had been all snobby about my dried dill. It's pretty good. I'll be using more this summer.

Kudzu: Lesson learned.

Jennywenny said...

Nice one, I often use the epicurious recipe as some kind of guide but never have everything on hand. The important things that I put in seem to be the buttermilk, a bit of hellmans mayo, dill from the csa, dijon, lemon juice, a bit of pickle juice and the dried garlic.

Mags said...

Mmm. Ranch. I'm with you - I hate store-bought Ranch (is it a proper noun?), except Marie's is pretty edible. Props to you for winging it.

Ever tried garlic powder on hot, freshly popped popcorn? Yummers.

El said...

What is it about Doritos? After 3 months without them in Italy, I guess I mentioned it to enough people that I got a letter from one of them with a crushed chip inside. (Open envelope and inhale slowly.) Granted, this was 20-odd years ago, and my tastes have since changed.

But I've never been much of a fan of the great umbrella flavoring called "ranch." I am glad, however, you were able to find a "real food" simulacrum thereof.

nelson_lamp said...

This was the recipe in last month's Saveur Magazine:

Ranch dressing was originally sold by its inventor, Steve Henson, as a seasoning packet that contained, among other ingredients, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, black pepper, and dried parsley; all cooks had to do was add mayonnaise and buttermilk. Our version uses fresh herbs, but fresh garlic and onion won't do: only the dried powders produce this dressing's characteristic flavor. Put 1⁄2 cup buttermilk, 1⁄2 cup sour cream, 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives, 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1⁄2 tsp. onion powder, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste into a bowl; stir well. Arrange 2 lightly packed cups trimmed and washed watercress, 3 cherry tomatoes, and a few thin cucumber slices on a salad plate. Drizzle some of the dressing over the top. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.) Serves 1.

cookiecrumb said...

Jennywenny: Yeah, Epicurious is a good resource. Frankly, though, ranch dressing is lowbrow, and you might as well not gussy it up with fresh herbs and the like. I wouldn't turn down fresh dill if I had any on hand, though. And: Pickle juice! Oh, I think that's the golden ticket. Thanks.

Mags: People recommend Marie's a lot, but I don't think even it is very good. It has to be homemade. However! Garlic powder on popcorn? YES.

El: Are you the first food blogger ever to use the word "simulacrum", and are you dissing my food? :D Har. Yes, it wasn't half bad. (Doritos still happen at our house, by the way, but you probably guessed that.)

Nelson_Lamp: Oh, right! Last month's Saveur was all about salads. I missed the dressing recipe. Nice. I totally get the remark about dried allium. But I wouldn't think it's ranch without dill... Merci.