Remaking An Iowan Country Club Salad: Milleresque Salad

Country clubs are interesting.

I worked at a country club very briefly before settling into my role at the auctioneering college in Mason City, Iowa. This was actually the first time I ever stepped foot in a country club. Growing up, my folks lived very frugally even though they could have afforded more splurges. They didn’t golf, dine out often, and were wary of arrangements involving automated membership fees. Therefore, country clubs really weren’t of interest to them.

I’ve always been fascinated with country clubs, as well as other grown-up clubs like sororities and fraternities and the Free Masons. It’s not that I’ve wanted to join them, per se, but just wanted to observe as a curious outsider.

Anyway, at this particular club, the dining services were primarily open to members or catered events like fundraisers or weddings (some special events are open to the public). It was a shame because the food was really quite good. Especially those hand-cut french fries. People went nuts over the Miller Salad. It contained romaine, croutons, parmesan cheese, rotini pasta, and peppercorn ranch dressing.

The last week of the month was particularly busy when members had to meet their required minimum food purchases. We received a lot of take-out orders and requests for Miller Salads like always. I never did find out how they made the dressing, so here’s my take on the Mason City Country Club’s Miller Salad.

Milleresque Salad
Cook’s Notes: I’m going to do the Molly Yeh thing and give peppercorn ranch dressing clues instead of exact instructions. Making ranch is really a mix and taste process. It won’t taste exactly like the Hidden Valley ranch packets, but will create a creamy, onion and garlicky dressing. Packet ranch can still be good ranch. For additional homemade ranch inspiration, check out the Pioneer Woman & Once Upon a Chef.

DSC_0575

Ingredients:
Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
Croutons (my homemade method)
Parmesan cheese
Cooked rotini pasta

Peppercorn Ranch Dressing Ingredients:
Mayo
Sour cream
Buttermilk
Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Cracked black pepper. A lot.
Finely sliced green onion or chives, or both!
Chopped parsley
Dill
Garlic powder or fresh grated garlic
Salt
Sugar
Optional: Cayenne

Instructions:

  1. Plop equal parts mayo and sour cream into a bowl. Whisk in buttermilk until you like its consistency.
  2. Stir in a splash or two of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity will balance out the creaminess.
  3. Throw in thinly sliced scallion or chives or both for a gentle onion flavor.
  4. Add chopped parsley and dill.
  5. Season with garlic powder or freshly grated garlic for a greater zing, salt, and a little bit of sugar.
  6. Adjust ingredients until you like the flavor (i.e. add more mayo for body, vinegar for tang, garlic for bite, etc.). It will also taste better after it mingles in the fridge for a while.

To Assemble The Salad: 

  • Throw romaine lettuce, pasta, croutons, and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Toss with the peppercorn ranch and serve. I like to season the lettuce with an extra sprinkle of salt and pepper and throw in sliced red onion, too.

This week I got my library card and feel like a real St. Louisian;) I ran across this quote about mayo from Jay Rayner in his essay “The Oyster Men” in Lonely Planet’s A Fork In The Road, a complication of food stories. Good ranch means mayo, and, as a Hellman’s girl, this spoke to me.  

mayonaise qote

5 Comments

  1. Yum! This looks really good 🙂

  2. Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple

    September 11, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Can I just say, I like the style of this recipe a lot. Listing the ingredients and telling us to play with the tastes and flavors is empowering 🙂

  3. Love the final quote and I have never heard of this salad before! I find it interesting it includes cooked pasta in it. Now I’m intrigued though… I might have to try it this week.

  4. This sounds really good! I’ve used Pioneer Woman’s ranch recipe before (roughly) with excellent results.

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