Congratulations! You made it through January. Bonus points if you made it through Canadian January. I know we’re not out of the woods yet – February is not exactly a sunny walk in the park. But when January dies, I remember winter months actually do come to an end. It’s all very encouraging. But we still have February to wade through, so let’s keep the comfort coming. Today I offer delicious solace in the form of a Roquefort-packed dressing draped over Iceberg Wedge Salads. Retro to be sure, but delicious nonetheless. Welcome to the first installment of Rhubarb & Cod’s Steakhouse Series.Jump to Recipe
So, here we are in the month of love, Hallmark-style. Yes, the stores are awash with red and pink, and heart-shaped boxes of mediocre chocolates are flying off the shelves. It’s a month of over-the-top gestures, saccharine sweetness, and far too expensive dinner dates.
As you no doubt can tell, I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I find it forced and disingenuous. But rather than spoil the fun of the less cynical, I’ve decided to make a creative exercise out of it with a bit of culinary time traveling. Yes, in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day, I will be posting my take on a classic steakhouse menu. Steakhouses seem to be a hot spot for cheesy romance. And while I’m not so much for the cheesy romance part, I love the steakhouse flavors and its unapologetic adherence to the classics. But I don’t like the prices.
So, before Valentine’s Day hits, I will give you all the recipes you need to give your sweetie an at-home steakhouse experience. And I will be revealing historic tidbits about these storied culinary institutions along the way. So, put on some lipstick, and zip up your best LBD because we’re dining like it’s 1955.
The modern steakhouse owes its format to two prominent ancestors: the Chophouse and the Beefsteak banquet. Chophouses date back to the late 1600s in London but they gained traction in North America in the mid-19th century. Beefsteak banquets showed up around the same time and were often used to raise funds for political campaigns or as a form of all-you-can-eat celebration. Both were found in large numbers in New York City, both had reputations for being dingey, and both largely catered to men. Suprise, surprise!
In fact, Beefsteak banquets often served thick slices of beef tenderloin with a slice of white bread. But this bread was not for consumption, no. The bread was used as a visual tally of how many slices of beef you managed to consume. Yes, that’s right, a silly, overtly masculine pissing contest measured in the medium of bread. I’m sure it was as impressive as it sounds.
But once women finally won the vote, politicians who favored the beefsteak banquets as a means of connecting with the working man, started to look for more inclusive means of reaching would-be voters. This led to a “tweaking of the menu” at political events. Bye bye, beefsteak banquets.
The fact of the matter was, women were entering the public sphere more and more. And the chophouses could not hold their attention with their dusty, poorly lit interiors. A happy compromise emerged and took the form of what we think of when we think New York City steakhouse. In fact, the classic shrimp cocktail first graced menus to appease female dining companions. Oh, and forks were added. How nice!
Now, today’s Iceberg Wedge Salads belong to a class of salads that were introduced to the American public in the 1950s. No particular establishment has laid claim to their creation. They reached the height of their popularity in the 1960s and virtually vanished by the 1970s. They have been called America’s silliest salad and are frequently lambasted for having no nutritional value. I can see where the critics are coming from. It’s a quarter of a head of lettuce with some dressing and a scattering of something. And yes, iceberg is not nutrient-dense. I know all of this and, guess what, I don’t care. When I tuck into one of these Iceberg Wedge Salads I’m not looking for the health benefits of a hot yoga class. I’m looking for crisp, creamy bliss and they have that in spades.
And honestly, is there anything wrong with a salad that requires two chops? No, of course not – life is busy. You can’t always be toasting nuts and frying bacon and cutting carrots into ribbons. Sometimes you just need a time-effective vehicle for a damn good creamy dressing. And who goes to a steakhouse on a diet? You can get your arugula elsewhere.
But as good as the classic wedge salad is, this is Rhubarb & Cod – my Iceberg Wedge Salads have to have a twist. And they deliver that twist in the form of Port Poached Figs. Have you ever had a poached fig? They are freakin’ delightful! They take on an almost candy-like quality and they poach in mere moments. Let’s see a poached pear do that.
So, that’s everything you need to know about these Iceberg Wedge Salads. And, indeed, more than you probably need to know about steakhouses. I can’t wait to share the rest of the menu with you, so don’t forget to check back.
Iceberg Wedge Salads with Port Poached Figs & Roquefort Dressing
Port Poached Figs
- 8 figs quartered
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 1/2 cup port
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup mayo
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 100g (3.5 oz) roquefort
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
Iceberg Wedge Salads
- 1 head iceberg lettuce quartered
- 1 batch Roquefort Dressing see above
- 1 batch Port Poached Figs see above
Port Poached Figs
- Sprinkle the sugar in an even layer onto the base of a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and let the sugar melt.
- Once the sugar has melted, arrange the figs slices on top of the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and let the figs caramelize for 2 minutes.
- Add the port carefully to the pan. It will bubble violently. Leave the port to reduce over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until it reaches a thick syrupy consistency.
- Take the skillet off of the heat and transfer the figs to a plate. Spoon any extra port syrup over top and set aside to cool until ready to serve.
- Whisk the yogurt, mayo, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the Roquefort and parsley and stir to incorporate.
- Cover the dressing and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.
Iceberg Wedge Salads
- Arrange the lettuce quarters on a large platter cut-side-up. Spoon a generous amount of the Roquefort Dressing over top of the wedges and top with Port Poached Figs. Serve immediately with a knife and fork.