No, that’s not my usual high definition picture. I don’t happen to have a bottle of Kraft dressing around, actually. Suzen and I live on a make-from-scratch basis. So, the next time we want Thousand Island Dressing, we’ll use the recipe below from Virgil’s Barbecue in Time Square. The Virgil’s team scoured the South for the best recipes in barbecue, sides and condiments.
Funny, I always imagined Thousand Island Dressing being born, not in the South, but somewhere in Polynesia, the ingredients and the techniques ancient and exotic. Like many of you, I grew up with Thousand Island as a staple: on salads, on sandwiches. My goodness, left over roast beef on French bread with Thousand Island? [Or Russian? More on that to come.]
Actually, Thousand Island is not from the South or Polynesia. It’s from the 1000 Island district of the St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada. Invented by local housewife, it drew attention and publicity in the early 1900’s. It has a base of mayonnaise spiked with chili sauce. As you can see from the recipe, there’s a herd of ingredients that you would not necessarily expect to be pooled together: celery, pimento-stuffed green olives, pickle relish, a hardboiled egg. Just stuff from a farmhouse pantry. Yet when combined, they yield something we can all recognize. The dressing is wonderfully generous in flavor. Just a sniff and you salivate.
It’s true, that some of us confuse Thousand Island with Russian Dressing. Russian Dressing, of course, was created by a chef to the tsars who spent a decade mastering the nuances to …
No, that’s not true. Russian Dressing was invented in Nashua, New Hampshire by James Colburn in the early 1900’s. He’d probably had Thousand Island with its base of mayo and chili sauce. What did Colburn do? He mixed mayo and ketchup. He kept the pimentos and added horseradish.
Important parts of our culinary heritage are thanks to people who just loved to tinker. So, if you are feeling inventive, grab a jar of mayo and then see what is red-colored and on your shelves. I would suggest that you keep the pimento.
Virgil’s Thousand Island Dressing
Yield: 2+ cups
- 1 2/3 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup chopped celery
- 3 tablespoons chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
- 1 tablespoon chopped bread and butter pickles
- 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pinch of cracked black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until completely incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
Sources: Virgil’s Road Trip Barbecue Cookbook by Neal Corman with information from Wikipedia
British food once possessed a bad reputation. It still does in some circles. Outside of London, “overdone” may still be the appropriate adjective for the meat at the local fare. But surely in London there is culinary grandeur. London is huge, rich, culturally diverse and offers an urban population on the move for new and better things.
One of the new bright spots in London is Pitt Cue Co, a British riff on American barbecue. But the boys at Pitt have not forgotten their origins. They weave in British standards on their menu — like barbecued roast beef — and in their cookbook. Here we have a powerful salad dressing, Anchovy Salad Cream, that is their version of the Heinz salad cream that you find in every store.
Heinz has a huge presence in the United Kingdom: vinegar, of course, and salad dressing and baked beans and more. Fish and chips? You’ll find bottles of Heinz on every table.
I have a theory that the “sourness” that is so characteristic of “basic” British food fare stems from geography. England is about as far away from the old spice trade routes as possible. And Olde England was not a particularly rich realm. Rich or not, food needs to preserved and tasty. If you cannot afford spices, then vinegar is a serious substitute.
Heinz salad cream gets its dominant sour flavor from anchovies. The recipe below calls for 5 ½ ounces of anchovy. I only used 3 ounces. I cannot imagine what it would taste like with 5 ½ in the blender. I think my mouth would pucker permanently shut.
That intense anchovy flavor, which some folks love and others run from, comes from the preserving process. Fresh anchovies are mild and are best enjoyed on an Italian beach. It takes preserving chemistry to produce the pucker. While we think of anchovies as small things, there are 140+ species with some up to 16 inches in length. Often we associate anchovies with European cuisine, and they certainly are integral to Mediterranean cuisines. But who catches the most anchovies each year? Peru. 70% of the world’s total catch. That’s a lot of Caesar salads.
Anchovy Salad Dressing
Yield: 3 cups
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
- 2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 ½ ounces Cantabrian anchovy fillets [or less if you are like me]
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
- 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
Put all the ingredients, except the cream into a blender and blitz for about 30 seconds. Slowly add the cream, blitzing until just incorporated.
Source: House Rub from Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/40th second at ISO-3200