Little did we know that when we focused in on ranch dressing for Taste3 that we would be haunted by the stuff all summer long. Ranch dressing is ubiquitous in Montana. Fried chicken and french fries arrive on the table, not with a bottle of ketchup, but with a side of ranch. Pizza is also served with ranch dressing on the side. In the employee dining room last evening we watched a gentleman put a layer of ranch dressing on top of his pasta. It was a beautiful, simple penne baked with sausage, smoked tomato and mozzarella cheese...and finished with ranch dressing. Now we've seen everything.
Fact is, ranch dressing can be really tasty stuff. In fact, spiked with some Tabasco sauce it makes a beautiful accompaniment to pressure fried chicken, causing us to wonder what fried chicken that had been marinated in a buttermilk based ranch dressing would taste like. The only pasta (besides those ranch gnocchi) we've ever eaten with ranch was pasta salad, and a mighty tasty salad it was. What if we made a pasta dough seasoned with ranch dressing? We could make a ranch cavatelli. Imagine that served with sauteed scallops or shrimp, a ragout of seasonal vegetables or even underneath a smoked chicken breast. Alex jumped from cavatelli to pappardelle and Aki chimed in with traditional potato gnocchi seasoned with the dry ingredients from ranch dressing, including powdered buttermilk.
When the shoe fits, wear it. Ranch is not the only dressing which we can use as a seasoning agent. As a teenager, a family friend prided himself on his famous marinated
steaks. The meat was incredibly flavorful and Aki always suspected that his secret
ingredient was bottled Italian salad dressing. We must confess that we have recently used Paul Newman's Salad Dressing as both a marinade and a poaching medium for chicken and turkey. Since the Paul Newman's
is a favorite of the people we're working for, we extrapolated that old
idea and the results were delicious. Really,
some of the tastiest chicken we've eaten in recent times. Who would have thought? We can probably get more fragrant spices and ingredients and make our own. We'll travel that route when we get back to NYC, although for the moment, the Newman's dressing as a marinade for proteins, vegetables, and various cold salads is yielding wonderful results.
Tangents, we often go off on tangents. These random associations and avalanches of ideas are what allow us to occasionally discover something interesting and exciting. Something as simple as a salad dressing can often lead us to a new pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.