Monday, February 10, 2014

MacGyver Cooking: Ranch Dressing

Many people have asked me what part of the US I am from.  While Chris and I moved from Charleston, SC, I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  (This is in the middle of the country for those not familiar with the US.)  Growing up in the Midwest, Ranch Dressing was a staple of my diet.  My mother would frequently serve our family iceberg lettuce salad that was topped with a cool, creamy, garlicy sauce that made eating veggies delightful!

As I grew older I learned ranch was for more than salad.  Chicken wings, potatoes, burgers, chips, and so many other foods tasted better with ranch.  I admit, I became a bit of a ranch addict.

When we moved to China, we quickly learned that ranch dressing, especially that of the Hidden Valley varietal was difficult to find.  While some Chinese branches of American restaurants, like California Pizza Kitchen and Hooters, had pretty good ranch dressing it was NOT the same as the stuff from home.  I found one brand of ranch in City Shop, but it was pretty sour.  As I was going through ranch withdrawal, I realized I had a couple of options to satisfy my ranchaholism. 
 1)   I could eat Hooters every night.  (No.)
 2)  I could have someone ship me bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  (Bottled ranch dressing always had a weird tang to it.)
 3) I could have someone ship me Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing seasoning packets and I could mix it together in Shanghai.
 4) I could make my own ranch dressing.
 5)  I could live without ranch.  (Not fun…)

Initially, Santa Claus, Chris, and my Mom provided me with ranch dressing packets.  In fact, one of the highlights of my Christmas packages from the States were packets of dressing.  When we returned to the States for our annual home trip, we made sure to stock up.  (I have to admit, nothing is better than the look on a cashier’s face when checking out of a supermarket with 30 packets of ranch dressing.)  Fortunately, we have been recently living a ranch filled existence.

I am an addict. 
Even my dogs love some ranch dressing action. However, DON'T feed your dogs my homemade ranch.  The onions could make them extremely ill!
Recently, I have been wondering if there is an easier way for expats to have access to quality ranch.  There had to way to make ranch dressing out of local ingredients.  To find an answer, I turned to Google. 

One of the first sites I saw was that of the Pioneer Woman!  She posted a great ranch-dressing recipe that used ingredients I could easily find in Shanghai!  I modified the recipe to fit my taste, and am now in homemade ranch heaven. 

I normally don’t blog about cooking because I’m a slacker in the kitchen and a lousy cook, but this recipe was too easy.  Here is how I made my ranchy dreams come true.

Here are the ingredients: a 250g container of sour cream, a small box of milk,  a middle sized container of Kewpie mayo (the recipe calls for a cup of mayo, but I find this size makes the perfect amount), 1 green onion, 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of dill, a pinch of parsley, and salt.

I started with a clove of garlic.  (Not the whole bulb, a clove.)

I minced the garlic with my mincer.  If you don't have a mincer, just use a knife or fork to make the garlic a paste.

Then I added a couple twists of sea salt.  The recipe called for 1/8 tsp. 
Then I added about 1/8th of the green onion.  If you wish, feel free to use chives instead.  

I then added a pinch of the parsley.  Feel free to add more or less.  If you are a culinary overachiever and want to save money, feel free to add fresh Italian parsley to taste.  This is what I had so it did well.
I then added a cup of mayo to the mix.  BE CAREFUL WHEN SELECTING YOUR MAYO.   I wouldn't use the sweet mayo or Miracle Whip, it messes up the flavor in my opinion.  

Then add about half of the cup (1/2 cup) of sour cream.  If you want to be healthier, light sour cream and plain greek yogurt work well also.

I then added a couple of squirts of milk from the milk in a box.  The recipe calls for a half cup of milk, but I usually like my ranch a little thicker so I will say start with a couple of splashes, then mix.  Add more milk to taste. 
I then used an immersion blender to mix it up.  If you don't have an immersion blender, just stir it up.  Again, I am a slacker in the kitchen. 
I'm obsessed with dill, so I put about 3 pinches of dill in the dressing.  Feel free to add as much or as little as you want.  Then mix again.
When you are finished, put the dressing in the fridge to chill for at least 30 min.

I think the ranch turned out well!!  Warning, if you don't like a kick to your ranch, use less onion and garlic.  
Sustainable ranch dressing IS possible in Shanghai!

Bon Appetit!