Riddle me this: What do ranch dressing, a plumber's crack, and the Alaskan Bush have in common?
Answer: Everything. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was developed by Steve Henson in 1949 while working as a plumber and cook in the Alaskan Bush in 1949. He was working out a three year contract as a plumber but ended up cooking for the crew. Henson knew he was cooking for a tough crowd. He reported that if the men did not like a dish they were just as likely to throw it at the cook as they were to walk out cursing. The men were especially disgruntled when served salad... AGAIN!
Henson began experimenting with 3 basic ingredients and a salad dressing was born. He had buttermilk, mayonnaise, and an assortments of herbs in one hand and a need to pacify cranky plumbers in the other. His fellow plumbers liked his creamy white stuff and agreed to eat their veggies peacefully; no more plates were thrown at Henson. A few profane words might have been uttered from time to time but the plates and Henson's head were finally safe.
Henson left the Alaskan Bush in 1952 to pursue his dream of owning and operating a dude ranch hideaway for tourists. He took his recipe with him to serve guests at the ranch. Dude ranch tourists loved it and wanted to buy bottles of his dressing. Demand outstripped his ability to supply bottles of Ranch Dressing so he began selling spice packets that could be mixed with buttermilk and mayonnaise at home. Recipe booklets flooded the market and ranch dressing was no longer used only as means of calming volatile plumber tempers. It had gone mainstream.
This chicken salad is a cool alternative to a hot heavy meal in the August heat.If you purchase a roasted chicken at your local grocery store the dinner can be ready to eat in 30 minutes without heating up the kitchen. I think it tastes even better the next day so I often make this salad one evening, stash it in the refrigerator, and eat it the next. It is refreshingly cool and creamy with a mild ranch flavor.
I made a few changes to the 1962 recipe. First, I buy my chicken roasted instead of cooking it myself. I also substituted sour cream for the mayonnaise. I like the tang and added body of sour cream. The original recipe calls for plain yogurt; I use plain Greek yogurt.
Chicken Ranch Salad
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 cups cooked and cooled chicken, cubed
1 cup celery, diced
1 can (8 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1½ cups seedless grapes, halved
1 package (1 oz.) dry Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
½ cup sour cream (or mayonnaise per the original recipe)
½ cup plain yogurt (I prefer Greek)
¼ cup honey
To toast almonds place them in a single layer in a frying pan. Place over medium heat. Stir often and watch carefully because nuts go from perfectly toasted and aromatic to burned in very short order.
Let pineapple and chestnuts drain through a strainer placed over a bowl. While pineapple and chestnuts are draining cube chicken, dice celery, and halve grapes. Place all in a large salad bowl.
To make dressing empty Ranch Salad Dressing Mix into medium sized bowl. Add yogurt, sour cream (or mayonnaise), and honey. Mix well. Pour over chicken mixture and very gently stir.
Sprinkle toasted almonds over the top.
Eat right away or cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.