Welcome to my new blog! As I struggle and attempt to construct this very first post, feeling the high stakes of establishing myself and compelling you to return, I’ve been recalling a section in Tina Fey’s excellent, highly-recommended memoir Bossypants, where she briefly discusses trying to write the pilot of 30 Rock, and why pilots are so hard to get just right. She says, “Pilot scripts are particularly difficult to write because you have to introduce all the characters without it feeling like a series of introductions.” And that’s kind of how it goes in writing the first of anything that you hope will be a long series of creative work that people actually enjoy and become regular consumers of. An introduction to hook your reader, give a certain sense of what you’re about and what they can expect, without any of it feeling or reading like that’s, well, exactly what you’re doing.
As an aside, worry not, I lack the extreme hubris necessary to compare myself to the genius that is Tina Fey. 30 Rock will go down as one of the smartest, funniest, well-written television shows in history, and it’s just one example of her fine work. She’s a personal icon of mine, a national treasure, I would absolutely not be mad if my husband slept with her, and the idea of me reaching her heights in any way is as stupid as the idea of Skip Bayless ever using his indoor voice.
This food blog though. I cook and write about whatever I like to eat and want to chat about – in a nutshell. I dislike food trends as a matter of principle, but if I happen to like the food that just so happens to be trending, I’ll totally compromise my morals. I really like bourbon, heirloom tomatoes, hot sauce of any kind, the Oxford comma, modern art museums, the Beastie Boys, and roast chicken with perfectly crispy skin. And cookbooks are life.
You know what else I really like? Decadent ingredients on a salad. I’m not sure what’s better in life, to be honest. I am well aware that I am AN ADULT who is supposed to eat salads because they are NUTRITIOUS and LOW-CALORIE, but I absolutely love salads where you’ve stuffed so many indulgent things on them that the fact that it’s a salad ends up being utterly pointless but for its deliciousness. This particular salad hails from Texas, as do I, and it begins with healthy things like lettuce, tomatoes, and red onion, only to be gratuitously smothered with a creamy cilantro ranch dressing, a ton of shredded Cheddar, and these buttery homemade cornbread croutons that are so crack-like they make actual crack seem healthy.
For the cornbread, I’d recommend a Southern style with little to no sugar, and one baked in a cast-iron to get those crispy edges, like the one I always use. I haven’t tried this recipe with a more cakey cornbread, but if anyone does, please let us know how it works. Enjoy!
Source: United Tastes of Texas by Jessica Dupuy
THE CORNBREAD CROUTONS:
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 cups 1-inch cubes of your favorite Southern-style skillet cornbread
½ tsp dried parsley flakes
¼ tsp kosher salt
THE CILANTRO RANCH DRESSING:
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 green onion, thinly sliced or snipped
1 large head red or green leaf lettuce, torn (about 10 cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup thinly sliced onion, soaked in tepid water for about 30 minutes, then drained well
1 ½ cups (about 6 oz.) longhorn-style Cheddar cheese, shredded (can substitute any mild Cheddar just fine)
Make the CROUTONS: Preheat your oven to 450 F. Melt the butter in a small skillet or stockpot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and let stand 2 minutes. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.
Combine cornbread cubes, parsley, salt, and garlic butter in a large mixing bowl, tossing very gently to coat. Scatter the cubes in an even layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden, stirring every 5 minutes. This recipes makes extra. I didn’t think you’d have a problem with that.
Make the DRESSING by combining the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously until completely smooth with no lumps. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. Chill 30 minutes before serving.
To assemble the SALAD, toss the lettuce with the tomatoes, red onion, and the Cheddar. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently. Scatter the croutons on top and serve immediately.