Minimal Monday: Hearts of Lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing (and homemade mayo!)

homemade mayonnaise

If you were alive and eating solid foods in the 50s, 60s or even the 70s you probably remember hearts of lettuce salads with Thousand Island dressing. We needed a knife to carve our way into those crisp wedges of iceberg lettuce drenched in wonderful chunky pink dressing.  This salad is either hopelessly old fashioned or mid-century chic, depending on your point of view.

Thousand Island dressing, named after the Thousand Island region of upstate New York, in the St Lawrence River along the border with Canada, has been around a long time. It was originally used as a sauce for fish, and because the area was popular with wealthy vacationers from big cities to the south, the story goes that it was discovered and put on the menu of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  This dressing would overwhelm the baby lettuces that we all love today, so you need to pair it with something sturdy like iceberg, romaine, or in this case a head of bibb lettuce cut in quarters.

To make Thousand Island Dressing you need to start with mayonnaise.  You can use store bought mayo if you want, but I made mine from scratch.  I’ve been wanting to try it for some time, but I’ve been scared off by the uncooked egg yolks that are essential to emulsifying the oil and lemon juice that makes mayonnaise.  The other day I was over at Cooking Weekends and noticed Gerlinde was making homemade mayo with pasteurized eggs.  I couldn’t find them at my regular store, so I did an Internet search and found Safest Choice eggs, and their site has a store locator, just type in your zip code.  I was excited to find the eggs available at one of our local chains, and now I can feel better about making things that I’ve stayed away from, like hollandaise sauce, meringues, and lets not forget snacking on cookie dough!

This was intended as a minimal dish, but, fair warning, it turned out to be far from it. It took me three messy tries to make a successful batch of mayo.  On the bright side, now that I know the secret, I can pass it on to you and nobody needs to go down that eggy oil spattered road again.
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So my first two attempts ended with a pale yellow oily liquid.  The third try yielded a thick glossy mayonnaise…the difference?  Patience.  You really do need to add the oil drop by drop right at the beginning, and then in a fine drizzle after that.  Expect your drizzling arm to ache and your processor to start to overheat.  It feels like forever while you’re doing it, but it really only takes 10 minutes or so.  Keep going!   The result is so worth it.

Homemade Mayo
2 pasteurized egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, do not use extra virgin olive oil which will solidify when refrigerated (I used Safflower)

  • Put the 2 yolks in the bowl of your small food processor.  Add the salt and lemon juice and start the machine.
  •  With the oil in a measuring cup with a spout, drizzle in just a little oil, several drops at a time, while the machine is going.  Keep finely drizzling in a few drops every 10 or 15 seconds and give the yolks a chance to incorporate the oil.  Keep drizzling as slowly as you can and eventually after a couple of minutes you will see the mayo become pale and start to thicken.
  • Continue drizzling slowly until all the oil has been incorporated.  Store the mayo in an airtight jar in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Note:  If you have a plastic squeeze bottle lying around that will make the slow drizzle a lot easier and less messy.

My Thousand Island recipe is slightly spicy, if you want a more basic version, just use the starred ingredients.  I was unexpectedly out of chili sauce and so I substituted a little more ketchup and 1/2 tsp of red chili pepper flakes.

Thousand Island Dressing
*1 cup homemade mayonnaise (you can also use store bought)
*1 Tbsp chili sauce
*1 Tbsp ketchup
*1 heaping Tbsp white onion, finely minced
1 heaping Tbsp red bell pepper, finely minced
*1 heaping Tbsp relish (sweet or dill)
1 tsp horseradish
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Several squirts of Tabasco, to taste (use your favorite hot sauce)
1 tsp mustard
a pinch of celery seed
two pinches of paprika
*salt and fresh pepper to taste

  • Mix all the ingredients together.  Taste as you go to get the exact proportions the way you like them.  Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to use it.  Make it ahead to give the flavors a chance to develop and mingle.

For the salad, take a nice tight head of bibb lettuce cut it in quarters.  Cut out the core and put each wedge on a salad plate and spoon the Thousand Island dressing liberally on top.  Garnish with lots of crumbled bacon.

 

18 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda
    September 20, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I use raw, fresh eggs from our ladies and drizzle the oil in faster than I should bec I’m not patient. Mine has only failed twice in 2 years. When it failed, I emptied my food processer and began a new batch. When I successfully made the second batch, I left the food processer and slowly added the failed batch into the new batch and continued to process it as if there was nothing wrong with it. I added the failed batch to the new batch and then I had a double batch of wonderful, thick, perfect mayo. So, don’t throw away your failed attempts. Just add them into your successful attempts at the end. I prefer making more than one batch at a time anyways since it doesn’t last long here. Thanks, Amanda

  • Reply
    annie
    March 14, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I want this right now! It looks so good I’m tempted to jump in the car and go buy everything!! Love your Bonne Maman jar with all that goodness spilling over.

  • Reply
    Rose
    March 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I always make my own mayo and if it separates at the beginning, I add a pinch of salt and keep on mixing. Eventually it will come back together again. I have always used raw egg yolks to make the mayo and have never had a problem.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    March 13, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I have some Safest Choice eggs in my fridge right now and I love em! Definitely perfect for making homemade mayo and this fabulous salad!

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    March 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    homemade mayo is one of the things i want to make most! It intimidates me for some reason and I am not easily frightened! After seeing this post I know I now must make it! No matter what! Love

  • Reply
    Hungry Dog
    March 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    This salad looks both refreshing and satisfying–gorgeous as always. I don’t think I’d make the effort to do the mayo from scratch and am impressed that you did!

  • Reply
    yummychunklet
    March 12, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Yum! What a simple and delicious looking salad. Love the two dressings.

  • Reply
    Lea Ann (Highlands Ranch Foodie)
    March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I’m loving that recipe for TI dressing. I’ve made my own mayo twice and yes, once a disaster and once a success. At the time I wasn’t sure why. Love that last photo.

  • Reply
    Claudia
    March 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    This reminds me of salads served in Northern MN – rich creamy homemade dressings… that jay Thousand Island really appeals. Kudos to making your mayo – I have yet to do that.

  • Reply
    Cathy at Wives with Knives
    March 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    This is old fashioned but it’s hard to find a dressing more delicious. My grandmother used to make 1000 Island and serve it on iceberg wedges and it’s still my favorite.

  • Reply
    Kate
    March 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Yum!! This looks amazing! I live about 45 minutes away from the 1000 Islands but they call what I consider thousand island dressing Russian dressing, which I find funny.
    Also thanks for the info on the eggs, doesn’t look like stores around here carry them, but we are moving south in 2 months and 3 stores around our new place carry them! Can’t wait to try this recipe once we move!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    March 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    It amazes me how you can make a single egg, or small bowl of mayo or a wedge of lettuce look so inticing! You are a gifted cook and photographer. I won’t be able to think about anything all day other than crisp lettuce, salty bacon and creamy dressing! Yum!

  • Reply
    Mary
    March 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    This looks awesome. I haven’t made a thousand island dressing before. Probably because that’s about all we ever had in the house while I was growing up. I wonder if I’m ready to like it again??

    Way to go on the mayo! I actually like mine made with a light flavored olive oil and I’ve never had it solidify on me. (?) Strange. For what it’s worth, I’ve made it in a jar with an immersion blender and it really does work that way as well. WAY easier than the slow drizzle. Or maybe I’m just not patient! Ok, I’d definitely not that patient. Yours looks perfect!

  • Reply
    Rita
    March 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    You photos are breath taking! I can almost taste the goodness.
    Rita

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    March 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Sue I love the idea of homemade 1000 island dressing, I always have found brought dressing a little too artificial tasting.
    Your recipe for mayonnaise is great, I make my own using ordinary eggs. Its perfect with seafood and a whole poached salmon. Role on the Easter holidays!

  • Reply
    Laura
    March 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Yum! I’ve been craving an iceberg wedge salad the past few days, so this is perfect!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    March 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

    When I was a kid and we ran out of dressing, my dad would tell us to mix together ketchup and mayonnaise. That always seemed to do the trick, haha! Yours looks quite lovely and I love the salad wedge thing.

  • Reply
    Katerina
    March 12, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thousand island dressing was very popular in the 80’s and 90’s here in Greece and I really loved it. Nowadays, you can only find it in store bought bottles! Thanks for sharing this really tasty sauce. You have a lovely collection of recipes in your blog!

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