Today I’m going back in time to the classic wedge salad! Though there are a lot of twists and variations on wedge salad, you really can’t beat the crisp, clean bite of iceberg lettuce. It’s the perfect base for buttermilk blue cheese dressing, crisp bacon, and vinegary tomatoes. And the perfect side for a well seared steak.
What is a Classic Wedge Salad?
A couple of months ago I was on-line reading the NYT Magazine Eat column where they were describing the classic wedge salad. I’ve long loved a wedge salad, but I have usually made variations on the theme instead of working with the original recipe. This time, inspired by their description, I decided to make a classic version.
(And, yes, there is a recipe associated with the column, but I wanted to take the description and use that to make my own salad. Making a recipe from a story is more fun for me than making it from a recipe. 🙂 )
According to the NYT’s article a classic wedge salad is –
- Simple and not too fancy
- Doesn’t need gussying
- iceberg lettuce (for the clean crunch)
- a basic style of blue cheese
- cherry tomatoes tossed with a sharp vinaigrette
- crisp bacon
- and sprinkling of chives
And I wondered: Would I love the classic as much as the variations? Would the salad live up to the glowing depiction?
Happily, the answer was yes to both of these questions! Classic wedge salad has a place at my table. Along with a seared steak and a nice glass of red wine.
How to Make a Classic Wedge Salad
To make a classic wedge salad you start with a head of iceberg lettuce cut into wedges. Add an intensely flavored blue cheese dressing, like my Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing, some vinegary tomatoes and shallots, crispy bacon, crunchy croutons, and finish it with a grind of black pepper.
First off, you’re going to need to make the blue cheese dressing. Luckily, I have a great recipe for the dressing, which is both simple and satisfyingly tasty. I prefer to make the dressing a day or two ahead (when I have a few minutes and I’m thinking about it) of when I need it so that it’s ready to go without any last minute effort on my part.
Next up, you’re going to make all the different parts of the recipe. Note: there are a few different parts! This wedge salad is a classic, but it’s not a no-effort, 5 minute recipe.
Bacon: I like to use 4-5 strips of bacon for the salad. Place the bacon on a cooking sheet and bake them for 14-16 minutes at 400F. (Rotating the sheet half way through.) When done, move them to a towel-lined plate and let them cool.
Lettuce: This part is simple. Strip off the wilted leaves, then cut the iceberg head into 4 wedges, cutting through the stem each time. The stem will keep the wedges intact.
Tomatoes: Combine halved cherry tomatoes with thinly sliced shallots in a tangy vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a dash of salt.
Croutons: You have a choice here. For crispy croutons with a tender center, fry them in olive oil over low heat until browned. For crunchy croutons with a dry center, toss them with oil and bake them in the oven until browned.
Once all the ingredients are prepped, put an iceberg wedge on each plate. Spoon over some of the tomato shallot salad, getting the vinaigrette in the leaves. Pour over some blue cheese dressing so it drips down the sides of the wedge. Then scatter crumbled bacon, croutons, and chopped chives around the plate. Finish with a few turns of the pepper grinder.
How to Wash Iceberg For a Wedge Salad
Honestly, I don’t.
Similarly to cabbage, I rely on the tight leaf structure in iceberg lettuce to keep the inside clean. Instead I strip off a few layers of leaves and then I proceed with the recipe.
And I wouldn’t recommend washing the iceberg lettuce either. Since you are using the lettuce in a wedge and not separating the leaves, the water you use to wash it is going to collect inside and water down the flavors.
How to Cut Iceberg for a Wedge Salad
There are a couple of tips for cutting the lettuce:
- For full-sized wedges, you will cut through the stem each time. Trim off the end of the stem so you have a clean cut there, then cut the head in half through the stem and each half into quarters through the stem.
- Use a standard, serrated bread knife to cut the lettuce. The bread knife will shred the leaves just a little, making a somewhat ragged cut which will hold the dressing better.
Making Classic Wedge Salad for a Crowd
Note: Since this would be for larger group, I am assuming there will be other sides served and likely appetizers and desserts. Therefore, you will want to make smaller salads and streamline the production.
Salad Bar Style
Cut each iceberg lettuce into 8 wedges (by cutting each long wedge into two shorter wedges) and put them on a platter. Set out each of the toppings in bowls near the platter. And set out salad plates nearby as well. Let everyone make their own. This is great for smaller get-togethers where you won’t have a backup around the salad bar. Or when feeding crowds with various food restrictions.
Cut each head into 16 wedges by halving the 8 wedges once again. Place the wedges on a platter. Top the wedges with all the toppings as directed for the large salads and let everyone scoop up a wedge for their plate.
If you try my recipe for Classic Wedge Salad, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! You can connect with me by subscribing to my emails (see the form in the sidebar or below the recipe card), liking my FACEBOOK page, or by following me on PINTEREST.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Steakhouse-style classic wedge salad made from iceberg lettuce, topped with buttermilk blue cheese dressing, bacon, and tomatoes is a great dinner side. For date night or for a crowd.
- 4-5 strips thick cut bacon
- 2 thick slices rustic bread, crusts trimmed off
- olive oil and kosher salt, to toss with bread
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, stem trimmed and outer leaves removed
- 2 tbsp minced fresh chives
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup blue cheese dressing, plus more if needed
To make your own dressing, use my Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing recipe. I prefer to make that first and have it on hand already when I'm making the salad.
Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange bacon slices on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, then turn the sheet 180 degrees (back to front) and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Transfer the crisp, browned bacon to a towel lined plate to cool.
Cut the slices of bread into croutons. Toss with enough olive oil to coat the bread and sprinkle with salt. Heat a large skillet over low. Add the croutons and brown slowly until golden brown all over, adding more olive oil to the pan if the croutons seem too dry. Transfer the croutons to a plate. (Alternatively, bake the croutons in the oven at 350F for 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice.)
Slice the tomatoes and shallots into a medium bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and kosher salt. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and toss to combine.
Using a bread knife, cut the iceberg lettuce into 4 wedges, making each cut through the stem end.
Arrange one wedge on each salad plate. Spoon over the tomato-shallot salad onto each, getting some of vinaigrette down into the leaves of the lettuce. Then pour over a portion of blue cheese dressing so that the dressing drips down the sides of the wedge. Crumble over a slice or so of bacon and scatter some croutons around.
Finish the salad by sprinkling some chives and a couple of grinds of black pepper over everything.
- Croutons: I prefer to fry the croutons over baking them. Frying gives the croutons a crispy exterior and a chewy interior. Also, you can fry the croutons while the bacon is cooking.
- Inspiration: This recipe was inspired by the article Wedge Salads Don't Need Gussying, Just Proper Assembly in the NYT Magazine.
- Wedge Salad for a Crowd: See the recipe discussion in the post for tips on making wedge salad for a larger group.