Don’t give up on iceberg lettuce just yet. There is nothing quite like a crisp wedge of it in a salad like this Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon, Croutons and Buttermilk Herb Dressing.
If you read Iceberg Wedge and wondered, ‘Why the heck is Barb heading back to the 70’s?’ I can’t say I blame you. It’s been a VERY long time since I even bought iceberg lettuce, much less made a wedge salad with it. But timing is everything! After months of intensive effort, I’m finally up to speed and caught up with perusing my food magazines.
As much as I enjoy throwing something together without a recipe, I also enjoy trying those that are brought to me via the pages of Bon Appetit and Food and Wine magazines. What caught my eye in the June edition of Bon Appetit was an article about Ralph Lauren’s ranch, the Double RL Cattle Ranch near Telluride, CO; hey, that’s my hood!
A true cattle ranch with approximately 800 head of Angus and and South Devon steer and heifers roaming the vast property; the meat makes it to his restaurants and if you are lucky, is gifted to friends over the holidays. True to his style, the furnishings are a blend of Native American pieces, antiques and comfortable Ralph Lauren home furnishings.
Certainly upscale for a working ranch but not unexpected for the home of a fashion scion. The food served to cowboys and family is also true to a ranch in the summer. Burgers, ribs, fresh vegetables and brownies round out a menu which includes this old fashioned but certainly updated Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon, Croutons and Buttermilk Herb Dressing.
I admit I’ve had some awful wedge salads; most a bit too heavy handed with blue cheese dressing and accompanied by croutons that are hard and stale. And of course there is the iceberg lettuce. A staple growing up and for many years as a young adult; it’s faded from fashion with the advent of so many varieties of lettuces that we can choose from today. But it sounded good and I was sort of craving that cool, crisp feeling that is delivered only from iceberg lettuce so I made it my mission last week and am so glad I did.
The craving has not dissipated, it’s just that now I want it covered in bacon, croutons, gorgonzola cheese and this amazing dressing. Why amazing? Made with buttermilk, sour cream and fresh herbs, it’s got a lightness that was welcome during the heat of summer. The ranch’s recipe did not call for blue cheese or gorgonzola in the dressing and I decided to just sprinkle a bit on top; which was nice in many ways. I personally love Gorgonzola but if you have family or friends that don’t like the cheeses of the blue vein variety? No problem, the dressing is totally cheese free; just hold the crumbles.
Everything works. The cool crunch of the lettuce was something I had almost forgotten and is just perfect for this presentation. While RL cooks their bacon in a cast iron pan on the grill and then briefly throws it on a grate, I found that’s not really necessary; just get it crispy on the stovetop. The homemade croutons using bacon fat? Oh my. Addictive. But the real star here is the dressing.
I left a big herb garden behind when I moved into this house and I’m not sure I’ll recreate that here but I have done a good job of growing them in containers. The recipe simply calls for a mixture of fresh herbs so mine included tarragon, chives, lemon thyme and rosemary. Blended with buttermilk (see Notes), sour cream, lemon juice and garlic it is the best ‘ranch’ dressing I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ll just call it that. ‘RL Ranch Dressing.’ With or without lettuce wedges, it will be making more appearances at our table this summer; it was pretty much perfect.
The day that I made this I had no one here for dinner and didn’t think the lettuce would hold for a day so luckily my neighbor across the street was home by himself after a family vacation while his wife and son stayed a bit longer with her family. I asked him if he would like some of this salad and he was at my door promptly with a plate in hand. I believe his words were, ‘This is the best dinner I’ll have had all week.’
I sent him home with half of it and I made the other half my meal. To be honest I wish it would have been good as leftovers; I was craving it the next morning and I know I would have eaten it for breakfast! Don’t let Iceberg Wedge Salads from your past stop you…this one is simply terrific.
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon, Croutons and Buttermilk Herb Dressing
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- ? cup finely chopped mixed fresh tender herbs (such as tarragon, chive, parsley, and/or dill)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices thick-cut bacon (about 1 pound)
- 3 ounces country-style bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce, cut into 8 wedges
- 4 oz Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled (optional)
- Whisk buttermilk, sour cream, herbs, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl to combine; season buttermilk dressing with salt and pepper.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet on the grill or stovetop. Working in batches, cook bacon in skillet, turning occasionally, until browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes. If cooking bacon on the grill, transfer to grate with tongs and grill bacon, turning once, until charred around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.
- Toss bread in same skillet until coated in bacon drippings. Cook, turning often, until crusty and browned, about 2 minutes.
- Drizzle buttermilk dressing over iceberg wedges and crumble bacon over. Top with grilled croutons and Gorgonzola crumbles.
Note Regarding Buttermilk: I never buy buttermilk for a recipe; it would be a waste since I don't use it for drinking so I ALWAYS just sour regular milk instead and it works.
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Add the lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for 5 minutes; it should thicken but I have found that using fresh squeezed works much better than bottled juice.