Living abroad for an extended period of time inevitably means missing—and craving—many foods you once took for granted. Many wouldn’t even make your top ten list of favorite foods, but there they are, getting dragged up out of your subconscious by a fickle palate that makes you ache with longing for something like Ranch Dressing.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Ranch dressing since I’ve lived in France. For many years, I just threw a couple of seasoning packets into my suitcase whenever I came back from the US so I’d have it on hand whenever the urge for an American-style tossed salad took me. Easy enough…and good enough… until one day I looked at the ingredients and realized I was paying good money for a powder that was mostly salt and artificial flavors. Surely, I could do better…
I am by no means the first person to come up with a homemade ranch dressing—that honor goes to Steve Henson, Mr. Ranch Dressing himself, who came up with the combo while cooking for a construction crew in Alaska. He then made the sauce the ‘house’ salad dressing at Hidden Valley Ranch, the guest ranch he operated with his wife just outside of Santa Barbara, California. (There’s a good account of the whole ranch dressing story here.)
I will say this for Steve: Ranch dressing concept is pure, simple genius: prepared mayonnaise for a thick, creamy, emulsified base, fermented dairy (buttermilk and/or sour cream) for tang. After that, it’s just a matter of what seasonings you add, and in what form. I use dried herbs for ease and, dare I say it ‘authenticity’—I somehow doubt that as a construction crew cook in the Alaska outback, Steve Henson had access to many fresh herbs or was mincing his own garlic. (But I’m sure fresh herbs are delish.) I like dill, so I add it. And I can’t find sour cream in France—so I skip it. Feel free to use my recipe (below) as is, or a springboard for your own. Because really, ever since the ranch dressing trademark expired, anyone and everyone (including brands other than Hidden Valley) can now make their own.
Ranch Dressing, My Way
3/4 cup (100 g.) prepared mayonnaise
3/4 cup (100 ml.) buttermilk
1½ tsp. each dried dill, parsley, and chives
3/4 tsp. powdered onion
½ tsp. powdered garlic
pinch of pepper
Place all ingredients in a 16-oz. (450 ml.) jar, and shake until combined. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes before serving. The dressing will keep up to a week in the fridge.