~ Pretty in Pink: Thousand Islands Salad Dressing ~
No matter how easy or complicated, recipes that have a history or a lore are always on my short list of blog posts to share because, for me, they are the most fun to write. They fascinate me. I'd like to think that, like myself, if one knows the story, it's more fun to prepare and eat the dish. Let me explain it this way: Part of the fun of eating a Caesar Salad or a Toll House cookie is pondering what part of their story is documented fact, romantic fiction or a combination of both.
Growing up in the latter 1950's, '60's and into the 1970's, Thousand Islands dressing was a common condiment option for all sorts of salads and sandwiches -- besides Italian, it was the only dressing my dad would eat, so we always had a bottle on the door of our refrigerator. As a kid and a young adult, I found a thousand ways to love it. I ordered it on wedge salads, chef salads, and, to this day I adore it in place of mayo on a turkey club. It's a fantastic dressing for potato salad or cole slaw, and, like Ranch, is a great dip for veggies. When fast food chains started offering a "special" or "secret" sauce, it was nothing more than a version of this iconic dressing. I never gave its history much thought, until, a few years ago. After returning from a trip along the upper St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada, my parents handed me a copy of the following famous "Thousand Islands Dressing Legend" -- a handout at lunch during their boat ride.
Bolt Castle on Heart Island located in the Thousand Islands.
Boldt Castle is the palatial Rhenish structure perched atop a high hill on Heart Island, in the 1000 Islands. George Boldt came to the United States as a poor immigrant boy at age 13 from Germany. Through perseverance and hard work, he achieved fame and fortune as one time owner of the well-known New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and, the equally renowned Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.
As a tribute to his wife, he decided to build a castle reminiscent of those he had admired as a youth in the Rhineland. First, he had the then named Hart Island reshaped as a heart, and then, renamed it Heart Island. Construction on his castle began, and materials started arriving from all over the world. With the outside shell of the building completed, and over $2,000,000 into the project, word came that his beloved wife had sadly and suddenly passed away.
Grief stricken, Boldt halted work and never returned. It stands today, just as it was left, with some restoration and interpretive work undertaken in recent years to preserve this unique and historic structure. Tourists now wander in awe and and only imagine "what might have been".
Bits and tidbits about Thousand Islands salad dressing:
It's said to have been the creation of a fishing guide's wife, Sophia LaLonde. After trying it, actress May Irwin requested and gave the recipe to her friend, another Thousand Islands part-time Summer resident, George Boldt. While cruising on his yacht, Boldt requested the easy-to-make dressing be prepared by his steward and served on his luncheon salad. After trying it, Boldt was so impressed, he decided to serve it in his hotel restaurants. He named it "Thousand Islands Dressing" in honor of the beautiful area where it was first served to him. Boldt's steward later became the internationally famous chef "Oscar (Tschirky) of the Waldorf".
All Thousand Islands dressings have bits of ingredients floating around in them. Many think that's how it got its name -- the tiny bits represent the islands.
The two main ingredients in Thousand Islands salad dressing are mayonnaise and some type of tomato product (chili sauce, ketchup or tomato purée) and sometimes a splash of cayenne pepper or Worcestershire sauce. Past that, recipes vary quite a bit from region to region. Minced onion and/or pressed garlic are common additions. Some versions add minced green pepper or olives and/or pimento. Others add minced hard-cooked egg and/or sweet pickles. That said, all recipes contain tiny bits of minced something floating in the dressing.
My Favorite Thousand Islands Dressing Concoction:
1/4 cup chili sauce, or a bit more, to taste
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish, or a bit more, to taste
1 hard-cooked egg, white and yolk separated and minced separately (optional)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, or a bit more, to taste
~ Step 1. Place all of the ingredients in a 2-cup food storage container. Stir to thoroughly combine the dressing. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, 2-4 hours or overnight. Overnight is great because it gives the flavors time to marry.
Store in the refrigerator up to one week or indefinitely if egg is omitted:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon
Cook's Note: I love hard-cooked egg in my Thousand Islands salad dressing as much as I love them in a chef's salad, tuna salad or an egg-salad sandwich (as long as they are perfectly cooked with tender whites and bright yellow yolks). I am so picky about how my eggs are hard-cooked, it was one of the first posts I published here on Kitchen Encounters back in September of 2010. ~ A Little Thing Called: Boiling Eggs (Hard-Cooked) ~, can be found by clicking into Category 15. Think Spring!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017. Photos of the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castle and Heart Island courtesy of the Thousand Islands website.)