Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homemade Buttermilk Herb (Ranch) Dressing

This recipe is loosely based (**Please, see the update at the end of this post) on a house made salad dressing that became regionally famous back in the seventies and eighties, at a little restaurant in Middlebury Vermont called Fire And Ice. The restaurant was established in 1974 and is now owned and operated by Paris Rinder-Goddard (the son of one of the original founders) and his business partner Chef Patrick Needham. It has a cozy, eclectic, authentic New England atmosphere and a menu filled with dishes prepared with locally sourced meats, produce, cheese and seafood. At some point back in their early days, they produced a cookbook, including recipes for some of their most popular dishes, including this dressing. Luckily, a friend of mine owned a copy.

The first time that she served the dressing at one of her fabulous dinner parties, I was hooked. So, of course, I asked her for the recipe and she graciously loaned me the book, but like a dope, I returned it to her at some point later on without ever writing the recipe down. Then, as the fates and luck would have it, the next time I wanted to make it and called her for the recipe, she explained that much to her own dismay, she'd misplaced the book! If I had a dollar for every time that I misplaced something I just knew I'd need later... well, you know the rest of that one, right?

So, from that day forward, we've both been making the dressing using our own interpretations. The mayo and buttermilk were easy to remember, but the rest of the ingredients are a combination of my recollections from the book and of the memory of how it tasted to me. The original recipe has brown sugar in it, but you know me... I can never leave well enough alone, so I added some **maple syrup instead, to try and give the pizzas a different level of sweetness. It didn't turn out to be an "in your face" maple flavor and it didn't in any way overpower the tang from the buttermilk, or the savory notes from the herbs and spices. But, when all was said and done, I'd say that I nailed it! (and this time I made sure to write it down!)

I suppose you could say that it reads like a typical ranch-style dressing and I'll give it that... to an extent. But, from the moment that I tasted the original, I can honestly say that it's better than any bottled or homemade ranch dressing that I've ever tried. So, it was kind of a no-brainer when deciding on a dressing to drizzle on the "Salad Style" Focaccia Pizzas that I made recently. Now, I can't imagine making that style of pizza without it. Of course, it's delicious on a tossed green salad, too. Especially one that includes fruit, like tart green apples or juicy ripe strawberries.

*If you're not a maple fan, you can certainly omit the maple syrup and it will still be delish - but make sure to add another teaspoon or so of the brown sugar. If you do decide to be daring, I promise that it really doesn't make the dressing as "maple-y" as you might think and the flavor actually marries with the shallot and the herbs beautifully.

Buttermilk Herb Dressing
(makes about 1 Quart ~ Can be halved/quartered)
  • 2 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 1-2 Tbls *Pure Maple Syrup (no maple "flavored" stuff, please!)
  • 2 Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Lg Shallot, grated (heaping tablespoon)
  • 2 Tsp **Dried Basil
  • 2 Tsp Dried Chives
  • 1 Tsp Dried Marjoram
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Tarragon
  • 1-2 Tsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
** If I have fresh herbs on hand, I'll definitely use them in place of dried. Just keep in mind that 1Tsp Dried Herbs = 1Tbls Fresh Herbs (and vice versa)
The preparation calls for two very simple steps:

(***Please, see the update at the end of this post)

1) Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl or large jar with a tight-fitting lid. Whisk or shake vigorously, until well incorporated.

2) Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. It keeps for approx. 7 to 10 days, tightly covered in the fridge. (if it even lasts that long...)



**A lovely reader named Donna, who also happens to have been a patron of the restaurant and a fellow fan of this dressing, read my post and proceeded to do something that was very kind... She left me the actual recipe from the Fire and Ice Cookbook in the comments below!! (because unlike me, she'd been clever enough to write it down 🙋🙌)

While the version that I came up with is pretty tasty and I'll probably make some form of a combined version of the 2 recipes from now on, I highly recommend that you take a moment to click on the comment section and copy the authentic recipe down for yourself! I promise that you definitely won't regret it!

Thank you, Donna! I am eternally grateful that you stopped by!!

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  1. Replies
    1. It's the best ranch dressing I've ever tasted. My best friend from high school attended Middlebury College in the late 70s and we went to Fire and Ice whenever I visited at least once, usually more. The dressing recipe was requested so often that they had it printed out and a copy was on each table. Naturally I copied it down and have been making it ever since. I adjusted the quantities for making it for home use but their original qualities are in parenthesis in the following:

      Fire and Ice Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
      1 cup Mayonnaise (4 cup)
      1 cup Buttermilk (4 cup)
      2 tablespoons Marjoram (.5 cup)
      1 tablespoon Basil (.25 cup)
      3/4 teaspoon Celery Salt (1 tablespoons)
      3/4 teaspoon Granulated Onion(1 tablespoons)
      1/2 teaspoon Granulated Garlic(.5 tablespoons)
      1 1/2 teaspoons Brown Sugar(2 tablespoons

      Mix together and beat well.


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