For the longest time, bleu cheese repulsed me. When my mother and I would go grocery shopping at Weis Markets, which in the early nineties meant a crammed little store with brown and mustard yellow signs everywhere and awful incandescent lighting, I'd poke my chubby little fingertip into the blue-veined wedges and demand an explanation.
She didn't have one (but she can make you a grilled cheese in the shape of a circle and call it a 'flying saucer,' and that makes up for any moldy cheese knowledge she lacks).
Her father, Pop, still eats like he's living in the Great Depression. His refrigerator is an eclectic mix of Wisconsin Germans meets Food Rationing - supplies for onion sandwiches, hard salami, Liederkranz cheese, pickles, and a jar of bleu cheese rattling around in the door with bits of dried dressing flecking the top. He buys the kind in the wide mouth jar and scoops the lumps of bleu cheese out of the bottom like buried treasure.
I couldn't tell you when I finally decided I would ignore the sour pungent smell of gym socks that wafted up off the wedge, and in hindsight, it seems rather silly one would ever put something with that smell in your mouth, but I did. And I loved it. It was soft, tangy, delightfully stinky. Bleu cheese and I? We've come full circle.
This salad can probably be found on the menu of any mediocre steakhouse in America, but that's just the thing - you're probably eating a mediocre salad, and life is too short for anything mediocre. Justin and I had a similar salad at a restaurant for his mother's birthday and oh, it was fine enough, but I suspected we'd been shortchanged in some way. The dressing was the right texture, but the barely there specks of bleu cheese made for an incredibly lackluster salad. Plus they forgot the bacon. And who wants to eat a salad without bacon?
If you scale back the buttermilk just a bit, the dressing will instantly be transformed into a dip for all things summer - cucumbers, carrots, radishes, or broccoli. I've also heard a vicious rumor about chopped red onion being added to this salad, and I find all things raw onion to be borderline sacrilegious, but I'll leave that up to you. I'll be praying you make the right decision.
Adapted from David Lebovitz.