Before I entered the professional world of words, photos and print, I worked in restaurants. Although my mother was a very good and creative cook, I’d grown up with many food prejudices. I say prejudices, because my pickiness wasn’t only about how a food tasted, it was wrapped up in how the name sounded, how it looked on the plate, and the ickiness factor of the food’s provenance. Working in restaurants, experiencing food from a different angle, and not being forced to “clean my plate,” freed me from the tyranny of food prejudice.
The first restaurant I worked at was the Sizzler, a casual, order-at-the-counter steak house in Montclair, Calif. I stood behind the counter and took orders for people’s salads and drinks. This was before the salad bar craze, and the only salads we offered were made of iceburg lettuce laced with shredded carrots. Salad dressings were made in-house and included Italian, French, thousand island, oil and vinegar and bleu cheese.
Bleu cheese. I’d developed a food prejudice against bleu cheese early on. I’d look at hunks of it in the store, it’s white body riddled with veins of green mold. The thought of eating the mold grossed me out. Until I saw how popular the dressing was among customers at Sizzler. Soon the lure of the creamy sauce glistening with minced onion and sparkling with black pepper, drew me in. The clincher was when my good friend Cindy, who’d put in a good word for me in getting the job, dolloped a ladle on her salad and convinced me to try it. That was the beginning of my love affair with bleu cheese.
Backing up again to the Sizzler, the restaurant chain was renowned for its bleu cheese dressing. It was made there at the restaurant in huge vats. I often watched the chef make it, taking in the bulk ingredients and imagining them in home kitchen sized proportions. I’ve kept Sizzler’s bleu cheese dressing as the champion of bleu cheese dressings to this day. I moved on from the Sizzler to other restaurants, each one contributing a food memory never to be replicated.
Over the years the food memory of Sizzler’s bleu cheese dressing compelled me to recreate a home kitchen-friendly variation which I’ve made for years. I hope you enjoy.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream (our Sizzler used imitation sour cream)
1 cup minced onions
4 oz bleu cheese crumbles
1 tsp lemon juice (our Sizzler chef used lemonade concentrate)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
- A day ahead of preparation, mix the minced onions with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and refrigerate for about 24 hours. Magic happens when the bleu cheese marinates with the onions and lemon juice.
- 24 hours later, mix the blue cheese/onion mixture with the mayonnaise and sour cream.