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Dude ranch idea results in No. 1 dressing

Dude ranch idea results in No. 1 dressing
Dude ranch idea results in No. 1 dressing
Suetta Tingler
Suetta Tingler

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the mega count of salad dressing bottles in the supermarket and thinking which will it be? If you like following the crowd, the decision is easy. Grab the Ranch, for it has been America’s No. 1 choice since overtaking Italian in 1992. The prelude to its fame was when the taste of Ranch joined with Doritos in 1986 to create Doritos Cool Ranch chips. That union kicked off a nationwide drool for all things Ranch.

The history of Ranch dressing is interesting. Its fame and fortune started with Steve Henson, a guy from Nebraska who worked the Alaskan Bush during the 1950s. Henson hired on as a plumber, but his contract also required him to cook for his co-workers.

That was no problem for a man who loved to cook. The Alaskan Bush is, in general, not a place where men look forward to eating salads, but Henson soon converted taste buds to liking his salads, especially the dressing he would concoct from the limited ingredients made available to him.

After about three years working in Alaska, he and his wife, Gayle, relocated to Santa Barbara, Calif., to buy 120 acres with the intention to operate a “dude ranch.” In reality, their “dude ranch” came to be no more than a stucco building that served as a special events center with limited overnight lodging.

The Hensons catered special events and offered a typical steakhouse menu. It was the creamy-tangy taste of the salad dressing that came to outshine the best steak in the place; same recipe Henson had once stirred up for co-workers. Upon request, Henson began selling jars of the dressing to steakhouse guests. In time, these sales came to pay the bills in order for Henson to keep his Hidden Valley Ranch.

Eventually, the problem came to be about how to safely handle the perishable dairy-based dressing recipe for those wanting to purchase but living out of the area.

Henson’s solution to the problem was to build a small factory at the ranch to produce small packets of dry salad mix that included directions about how to prepare by combining and mixing with mayonnaise and fresh buttermilk. At first, the idea seemed to work, but later it became obvious that few people kept buttermilk on hand in their homes.

Henson finally caved to the hassle and sold his salad dressing recipe and the Hidden Valley Ranch brand to the Clorox Corp. for $8 million in 1972. Once the big corporation claimed rights to Henson’s hard work, changes began to happen. Sales soared once preservatives and buttermilk flavoring found their way into the original recipe, making the dressing a shelf-stable product, which can hold safe for up to 150 days on a supermarket shelf.

Today, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing is sold in at least 30 countries where it is commonly known as “Cool American” dressing. The taste of Ranch continues to pump out staggering sales each year as the classic condiment because of its versatility. It is a popular not only on salads, but as a dip for chicken wings, pizza crust, fried pickles, cheese sticks, french fries, chicken fingers, burgers, corn dogs, chips, raw veggies and grilled cheese and goes great with baked chicken, among a host of other possibilities.

In 2017, Hidden Valley Ranch brand of dressing reached a whopping $5.8 billion in sales, and its story all began with a hard-working guy who took a job in Alaska and liked to cook.

A quick fast forward, the guest ranch in Santa Barbara is no longer in operation and the Hensons have passed, Steve at age 89 in 2007, but his legacy lives on with factories mixing his favorite creamy, tangy taste in Reno, Nev., and Wheeling, Ill.

Summer is the season for salads. Perhaps with a few personal tweaks, there’s fame to be found when stirring up your favorite homemade dressing. Following are some classic, basic beginnings for you to consider.

Classic Vinaigrette — Whisk 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and black pepper to taste; gradually whisk in 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil.

Creamy Italian — Blend 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons EACH sour cream and olive oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings, 1 garlic clove and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt; put into blender and blend until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

Bistro Bacon — Make classic vinaigrette dressing; add 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3 slices crumbled, cooked crisp bacon and 2 tablespoons chopped chives.

Mediterranean — Make classic vinaigrette; mash in 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese; whisk in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 plum tomato, diced.

Spicy honey mustard — Whisk 2 teaspoons EACH honey and Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon EACH lime zest and Kosher salt. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup EACH olive oil and vegetable oil then add 2 teaspoons chopped thyme and 1/2 a minced jalapeño.

Avocado Wasabi — Puree half an avocado; add 1-1/2 teaspoons wasabi paste, 3 tablespoons EACH rice vinegar and water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt in a blender. Gradually blend in 1/4 cup vegetable oil.

Smokey Ranch — Whisk 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, juice of 1/2 lime, 2 tablespoons EACH chopped cilantro and chopped chipotles in adobo sauce, 1/2 teaspoon EACH honey and Kosher salt and a pinch of garlic powder.

Asian Sesame — Whisk 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger, 3 tablespoons sesame oil, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt; add pepper to taste.

Ranch — Whisk 2/3 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon EACH onion powder and onion flakes and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Add 1 tablespoon EACH chopped chives, dill and parsley; season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

HIDDEN VALLEY
POTATOES

2 pounds small red, potatoes, quartered

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning & Salad dressing Mix

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in gallon-size zipper bag, add oil; seal and toss to coat. Add seasoning mix, toss again until potatoes are coated. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 30 to 35 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

BLT PASTA SALAD

(“Kentucky Back Road Restaurant Recipes”)

1 (8-ounce) box elbow macaroni, cooked

1 (12-ounce) bottle Ranch Dressing

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 head of lettuce, chopped

1/2 large onion, diced

3 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons black pepper

3 tablespoons celery seed

6 slices bacon fried crisp, crumbled

Combine all ingredients but the fried bacon in a large bowl; mix ingredients. The pasta salad is better if made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. Sprinkle bacon over top of salad and gently stir in just before serving. Additional dressing may be needed after chilling.

RANCH BAKED

QUESADILLAS

1 cup cooked shredded chicken

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1/2 cup Ranch dressing

1 can diced green chilies, drained

4 flour tortillas

Combine chicken, cheese, dressing and chilies. Place 1/2 cup mixture on a tortilla and fold in half. Place quesadillas on a baking sheet; bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into thirds. Serve with salsa. Serves 4.

GOOD FOOD, GOOD MEMORIES

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