The ultimate wedge salad

By: JJ Begonia

Photo Credit: JJ Begonia

A wedge salad. Who needs a recipe for that? Wow. So original! (I know what you're thinking.)

Well, yes and no, but also I caught this clip on TODAY a couple of weeks ago and was musing on it afterward – which lead me to create this post.

During the segment the anchors were recounting an article that had run in The Washington Post the day prior, and discussing whether or not the wedge salad is "summer's best/most satisfying comfort food" based on that. Opinions were mixed. Savannah and Tamron were very anti-wedge – mostly because of the iceberg lettuce – while the men on the show were all in. Hmmm.

After reading the article, I have to say that the author {David Hagedorn} and I are more or less on the same page with this. I feel the same way as he does when he says "As far as comfort food, the wedge salad is right up there on my list with macaroni and cheese and fried chicken". I mean, I'll take any one of or all of those things at any time. Please and thank you!

I get the nostalgia factor tied to the this salad as well, because in my case, it reminds me of going to fancy steakhouses with my Dad when I was a kid. It was always such a revelation to me to order lettuce – not pre-cut! – covered in creamy dressing, followed by a piece of meat swimming in butter, with all of those equally decadent sides. Everything about those meals was so wrong, but so right.

I was going for some of that feeling when attempting to make my 'ultimate' version at home – while simultaneously trying to convert all of the non-wedge-lovers out there, if only in my imagination. My goal was for this to be the familiar concept, but a finished product that could possibly live up to that headline. I wanted to keep the "non-negotiables – iceberg, blue cheese, and bacon" as Hagedorn calls them. I would argue though, that this time of year when the tomatoes are just so, so, good, and there are an incredible number of heirloom varieties available – they must be included too. I actually think that a part of me did this just to have an excuse to take a hundred (124, to be exact!) pictures of tomatoes. Can you believe the enormous striped one below!?! It cost me $6 at my local farmers' market and it was worth every penny!

Ultimate Wedge Salad

Prep time - 10 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Total time - 30 mins

I know that no one really needs a recipe for a wedge salad - the concept is pretty simple after all - but if you are looking for a way to gild the lily on the original, below are a few ideas. I served this to 6 people so my quantities are on the larger side, but feel free to adapt as necessary.

Recipe type: Sides, Mains
Serves: 6-8 servings


For the Salad:

  • Iceberg lettuce (For 6 people, I used 1½ heads)
  • 1 avocado
  • Tomatoes - I used a variety of both small and large Heirlooms, sliced
  • Handful of fresh basil and tarragon, chopped

For the Candied Bacon:

  • 10 slices center cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the Tomato Oil:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 pint small tomatoes (Cherry or grape, red or yellow, will work!)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar OR tarragon vinegar OR red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

For the Blue Cheese Dressing (halved and loosely adapted from Ina Garten):

  • 2-ounces good quality blue cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar OR tarragon vinegar OR red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
1) You can do this first and set aside or last - however you like - but assemble the salad ingredients on your serving platter. I layered the avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs on a large marble slab. (If arranging the salad first, drizzle a little bit of lemon juice over the avocado slices to keep them from oxidizing.)

2) To make the candied bacon: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the bacon on it, in a single layer. Bake, turning once for approximately 15 minutes, or until crisp and cooked through. Remove the bacon from the oven and sprinkle with brown sugar. Return to the oven for approximately 1-2 minutes, just until the sugar bubbles and begins to caramelize. Remove from the oven once again, and allow to cool.

3) To make the tomato oil: Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot to the pan and cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add the whole tomatoes to the saucepan and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes will begin to burst (This is a good thing as you want them to break down!). I aim for a half burst/half still whole mixture, and once there, I remove the pan from the stove. Stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

4) To make the blue cheese dressing: Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.

5) To assemble: Crumble the cooked bacon over the lettuce. Drizzle with the blue cheese dressing and tomato oil, reserving some of each to pass on the side. Enjoy!

More from JJ Begonia:
Marian Burros' Plum Torte
Estrellita - Hibiscus Tea and Cinnamon Cocktail
Roasted Strawberry Mint Smoothie
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