Dressing for success: Versatile dressings boost flavor and product consistency
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Salad dressings can be a useful tool to help foodservice operators maximize the productivity of their ingredient inventory.
They can be used as marinades for meat or vegetables, as a spread for sandwiches, as a dip for appetizers or for many other uses, to make the back-of-the-house more efficient. And especially in the kitchens of restaurants with multiple locations, or kitchens that employ workers with uneven culinary skills, using premade dressings as recipe ingredients helps ensure that product quality remains consistent.
Consumers readily accept that salad dressings can be used in many ways. Research from the Association for Dressings and Sauces finds that, in addition to using dressings on green salads, consumers also use salad dressings as:
- A chilled dip for chips or vegetables (40%)
- An ingredient in a cold salad, such as a potato salad (35%)
- A condiment for a sandwich (30%)
- A marinade (29%)
- A baking ingredient (23%)
- A hot dip (15%)
For foodservice operators, using dressings as marinades is one of the best ways to add flavor to meats and vegetables.
“A zesty marinade turns ordinary cuts of meat and ho-hum vegetable dishes into mouth-watering masterpieces,” says the Association for Dressings and Sauces. “And great-tasting, ready-to-use dressings and sauces make marvelous instant marinades. They do double-duty—tenderizing as they add distinctive flavors.”
A “spiedie” solution
One interesting dish that can be made using dressing as a marinade is the spiedie sandwich, a regional specialty from central New York that is thought to have been introduced by Italian immigrants in the 1920s. It consists of cubes of meat—usually beef or chicken—marinated in Italian dressing, grilled on a skewer over charcoal and then served on a soft Italian roll. Some fresh dressing can also be added before serving.
One spiedie recipe in the New York Times notes that marinating beef, pork or venison for 24-36 hours is not uncommon, but chicken should only be marinated for a maximum of 12 hours to preserve the integrity of the meat.
Home on the ranch
Coatings for baked or fried chicken present another opportunity to use premade dressings. Ranch dressing, including varieties such as buttermilk ranch, are popular choices for this.
Try dipping skinless chicken breast halves into ranch dressing and then breading it with breadcrumbs and baking it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Or, season skin-on chicken thighs with salt and pepper and then marinate them in ranch dressing for five minutes. Sear the thighs skin-down in a hot skillet for about three minutes. Then, simmer in a seasoned broth with rice until the chicken is cooked through.
Any liquid dressing can become a marinade. Here are some tips for using dressings as marinades from the Association for Dressings and Sauces:
- Use about ½ cup of marinade for each pound of food.
- Average marinating time for meat can range from three hours to overnight. Cubed meats for kabobs usually require 2-3 hours.
- Remember that marinades flavor or tenderize only the outside ¼ inch of each piece.
- Marinating 12 hours or more reduces cooking time by one-third.
Remember that premade dressings are versatile ingredients that can serve multiple roles in the kitchen and can enhance operator productivity and product consistency.