Let’s Talk Food: Getting to know ranch dressing

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Bottle of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning and salad mix.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Ranch dressing as a dip for vegetables.

Ranch dressing is a favorite for many. It’s not only available as a dressing, but also often used as a flavoring base in potato chips.

But have you heard of Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda?

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Or how about Starkist Tuna ranch flavor?

Or Archie McPhee Ranch Flavored Mints?

Or Kings Island Sweet Spot Ranch Cotton Candy?

Here is the story of this popular dressing.

Ranch dressing was developed by Steve Henson of Hidden Valley Guest Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1954. While a plumber in Alaska, he created his homemade dressing for his coworkers, so when he moved to California and opened his guesthouse, along with his wife, he gave his visitors his homemade “ranch” dressing.

In the 1960s the dressing became so popular that Steve started to sell the packets of seasoning at a local grocery store.

By 1972, Hidden Valley brand grew into a small mail-order business, as people who had sampled his dressing were ordering it when they went home.

As fate would have it, Clorox Company bought Hidden Valley ranch dressing for $8 million and added more products, including party dip mixes.

After nearly 10 years, Clorox released a shelf-stable dressing in bottles in 1983. With this name recognition, in 1986, Doritos created Cool Ranch flavored corn chips. Unknown overseas, the chips were called Cool American.

In 1992, ranch dressing became the best-selling salad dressing in the United States, overtaking Italian dressing.

Taco-nacho cheese and pizza-flavored ranch dressings were introduced in 1993, but were not very well-accepted and soon disappeared.

In 2015, Twisted Ranch, a restaurant, was opened in St. Louis, with 31 twists on the original ranch dressing.

During the 2017 Super Bowl Sunday, there was a live-streaming ranch dressing fountain. Soon after, Hidden Valley started to sell a home version for $100.

The Hidden Valley Guest House closed down. I would, too, with my $8 million!

• • •

The tang for ranch dressing comes from the buttermilk. It also is blended with various amounts of some herbs and spices. Although recipes vary, the basic ingredients are onion flakes, garlic powder, dill and parsley.

Food Network’s Ree Drummond’s homemade ranch dressing is as follows:

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Serves: 8

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup real mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley leaves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash hot sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (depending on consistency you desire)

Mince garlic with a knife and then sprinkle on the salt and mash it into a paste with a fork.

In a bowl, combine the garlic paste, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, vinegar, paprika, cayenne and hot sauce. Add the buttermilk to desired consistency and mix to combine, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before servings, thinning with more buttermilk if needed.

• • •

Another, simpler, ranch dressing from the Food Network Magazine is as follows:

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Whisk together:

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon onion flakes

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped dill

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

Season with:

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

• • •

Hidden Valley has a recipe using the packaged Hidden Valley dry mix.

Crunchy Baked Ranch Chicken

Serves: 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4-5 ounce per piece)

1 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning Salad Dressing &Recipe Mix packet

3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, add the mayonnaise and Hidden Valley mix and stir until well blended.

In a shallow bowl or plate, place the bread crumbs. Dip each breast in the dressing mixture, turning on all sides until well-coated, shaking off any excess. Lay the chicken in the bread crumbs and turn until evenly coated.

Arrange the chicken on a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Bake 25-30 minutes until an internal temperature of 165 degrees or until juices run clear.

Note: If your chicken pieces are larger that 4-5 ounces, increase baking time up to 40-45 minutes.

• • •

Here is a recipe for slow cooker ranch mushrooms from the Hidden Valley website:

Slow Cooker Ranch Mushrooms

Serves: 12

2 pounds white button mushrooms, cleaned and halved

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning &Salad Dressing Mix shaker

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped chives, for garnish

Place the mushrooms into the pot of slow cooker.

Melt the butter and stir in Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning &Salad Dressing Mix Shaker. Pour over the mushrooms, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

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Cover the pot, set heat to low. Cook 4 hours. Serve warm, topped with chopped chives.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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