Growing up, my family often celebrated special occasions at Chicagoland supper clubs. These were restaurants that had red leather (vinyl?) booths and white table cloths. They seemed a lot fancier than they were. On holidays they were filled with middle-class families dressed up (to whatever degree people still dressed up) and on their best behavior. I loved having dinner at these places. The menu consisted of classics like prime rib or chicken piccata (wedding food) and always came with your choice of soup or salad and potato (go for the double-baked) along with a wonderful basket of dinner rolls. Dessert was always cheesecake or rainbow sherbet. I still love restaurants like these, though they seem more difficult to find nowadays.
This poppy seed salad dressing reminded me of those restaurants, where it would probably be served on a salad of iceberg lettuce and tomato wedges. I made a simple salad of butter lettuce and thinly sliced radishes. The dressing, in its original form, is very sweet. I reduced the sugar and increased the vinegar ratio, and it is still pretty sweet. We found it thoroughly enjoyable, and those of you who are familiar with dressings like this will be transported. The recipe below makes a lot of dressing. If you’re uncertain, feel free to make half of a recipe. And make sure you add something bitter or peppery, like the radishes, to compliment the sweetness of the salad dressing.
It feel right for right now. Spring.
Poppy Seed Dressing (adapted from Saveur)
- 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. dry mustard powder
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, finely grated, juice reserved
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the poppy seeds and cook, swirling pan constantly, until they are lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and onion with juice, and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to simmer. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the vinegar mixture to a blender. Add both oils, and blend until smooth; chill. The dressing may separate after sitting, you can shake it to re-emulsify. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.Will keep in the fridge for a few days.