I always have my eye out for recipes that might be just a little offbeat (hey I’m not Betty Crocker) especially ones that can be adapted to my Minnesota kitchen. I figure if I can make something here, with grocery stores that are full of ingredients catering to our Midwestern sensibility (although they’re getting better) then you can probably make it wherever you are. I hope, anyway! And while this regional specialty, Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing is a little off-beat, you shouldn’t have any issues with finding these ingredients!
Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing is really supposed to go with Sensation Salad, a Baton Rouge specialty. It was first served at a now-defunct eatery, Bob and Jake’s on Government Street. Later, according to Maggie Heyn Richardson, in an article from 225 Magazine, it was served at The Place on Florida Boulevard, and can now be found on the menus of restaurants throughout the area and all over Southern Louisiana.
About Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing:
The whole thing about Sensation Salad is that it is very simple. The greens are usually a blend of Iceberg and Romaine and a touch of parsley. The dressing is very simple, also. The flavors, though, are not! This is an old school salad with an old school dressing and that dressing is a bit sharp and definitely carries the salad. I used it recently on my Sensational Cajun Chicken Salad and this dressing just “made” the salad. There were no worries about standing up to that spicy Cajun chicken!
The ingredients are few but they’re bold ones. The flavor comes from the lemon, vinegar and Romano cheese along with a good amount of garlic. Don’t be dating any vampires if you’re making this, lol! And also, don’t go pulling out the good Virgin olive oil for this salad; you’ll want something neutral so the rest of the flavors can shine.
This dressing makes enough for several salads, stores well, but will need to be shaken together or reblended after it sits. Less is more when dressing your salad, whether going with the traditional green salad or my Sensational Cajun Salad; this is a dressing, not a drowning as they say, whoever “they” are. I had some issues to work through before I thought my Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing was good enough to share; see below.
Making Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing:
There are two ways to make this dressing. You can make it with the basic vinaigrette ingredients in the recipe and then add Romano cheese to your salad or you can add the Romano right to the vinaigrette ingredients as you make it. You definitely want to use finely grated Romano if you can, not the stuff from the green can or prepackaged at the store. And you’ll want to use it in the dressing right after grating it before it has a chance to dry and harden. The same goes if you decide to use Parmesan. instead, which is more widely available. Keep in mind that Romano is a little more intense in flavor than Parmesan.
If you’re just making the vinaigrette without the Romano, you can add all the ingredients to a jar and shake it or make it in a blender if you’d like. It’s creamier in the blender although it does settle pretty quickly and will need to be shaken together later.
When you add the Romano to the vinaigrette ingredients this mimics the commercial dressing that’s available. And while I haven’t tried the commercial version, my homemade version is out of this world delish! I really think the Romano IN the dressing is the way to go.
I had a couple of issues though. There isn’t anything in this recipe that acts like a great emulsifier, which is the component of the dressing that helps to hold it together. Usually, some kind of mustard is used, but that would be out of place taste-wise and not in keeping with tradition.
- The first night I made this, I shook the ingredients together, used it and if was great. It settled pretty quickly but a quick reshaking distributed everything just fine. The next day, though, the Romano didn’t want to shake in at all. Seriously, it was literally seconds before it dropped to the bottom and it wasn’t even enough time to dress the salad. I could have used a spoon to just distribute it over my salad but I wanted to “fix” it.
- My solution was to blend, and I did so “hoping” it would be a fix. And it is. The dressing still settles quickly but it takes a few minutes, and when I shook it back together, it stayed together longer. So if you want Romano IN your dressing, for best results, use a blender. It’s not optional IMHO. By the way, my Nutri Bullet worked great.
I go for as much flavor as I can in the dressing. The freshly grated Romano, the lemon and zest, and the garlic should be pressed if you have a presser or really smashed and minced just about into a paste. Taste then adjust (and you may wish to adust, depending on how garlicky, lemony or salty you want your dressing) and serve. This dressing is good and sharp; some of you might even want to add a little bit of sugar to it.
Saving Money on Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing:
The dressing gets bonus points for being easy and there are a couple of built-in cost savings…
Romano cheese is almost always less than Parmesan and packs a bigger, bolder taste. Bonus for that! Less money, more flavor, win-win. I know how easy it is to buy either Romano or Parmesan already pre grated, but check the price per ounce or price per pound. While some grocery store cheese is the same whether grated or not, both Parmesan and Romano are usually much pricer and don’t keep as well, once grated. Try cutting your cheese into smallish chunks, about 3/4 o an inch and tossing them in the food processor with the cutting blade. Don’t try to use the feed tube and the grating disc. I broke a food processor doing that. That was an expensive mistake! Maybe your heavy-duty food processor can handle it but mine sure couldn’t.
Bonus also, for the cheaper olive oil in this recipe. or a blend of olive and vegetable oil. You’re looking for a neutral flavor. Unless there’s a great sale (with coupons – check your matching site or the producer’s website) on olive oil at the store, I pick up my basic every day olive oil that I use so often in cooking at either Aldi or the Buyer’s Club.
For both the cheese and the olive oil the same buying strategies apply at the store. You’ll usually see hangtags (pads of coupons) on the items or near the items with long expiration dates. Grab them and save them for a great sale. Often they’re a dollar each, so watch for the cheese or the olive oil to go on a buy one get one free or buy one get one half price sale. In most stores you can use two $1.00 coupons and combined with the sale makes for a great price.
Louisiana Sensation Salad Dressing
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- zest and juice of 1 smallish lemon (about 2 tablespoons of juice)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- salt and black pepper to taste
- garlic powder to taste (suggest 1/4 teaspoon)
- 1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese (grate finely)
Make the dressing with or without the cheese, but if you make it without, the cheese should be sprinkled over the salad.
To make without the cheese: Add all ingredients except for the cheese to a lidded jar or blender. Shake well or blend. Taste and adjust flavors.
To make dressing with cheese, a blender is highly recommended. Place all ingredients in blender and blend, pulsing several times. Taste and adjust flavors, then reblend. Transfer to a container with a lid; the dressing will separate and will need to be shaken back together.
Note: while this dressing is great just after it is made, it gets better and better after it sits for a bit. Try to make it 24 hours in advance, if possible.