MAY 6, 2013

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

Livio Velardo, chef de cuisine, Gotham Bar and Grill

It began with pizza. Livio Velardo was pursuing a psychology and teaching degree, working at a pizzeria for extra cash. But before long, the current chef de cuisine at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill determined he preferred the kitchen to the classroom.

Velardo has since cooked on both coasts, at San Francisco’s now-shuttered Rubicon, as well as at New York City’s Montrachet, Tabla and New French, now all closed, where he honed his bistro skills. For Tasting Table, he shared a recipe for a basic, incredible wedge salad with bacon and a buttermilk dressing. Refreshing and versatile, you’ll want it in your cooking arsenal when the dog days of summer roll around.

TRACK THIS CHEF

Livio Velardo's:

DAY IN THE LIFE

TIPS & TECHNIQUES

A Varied Wedge

A wedge salad is ripe for experimentation. To the buttermilk dressing, Velardo suggests adding soft herbs like tarragon, chervil or basil, or stirring in crumbled blue cheese or a few dashes of hot sauce. Instead of pairing the iceberg with bacon, avocado and tomatoes, substitute hard-cooked eggs, roasted peppers, olives and canned tuna for a Niçoise-style salad. Velardo also uses buttermilk dressing as a marinade for fried chicken (soaking the chicken in the mixture overnight, refrigerated, then breading and frying it), surrounding a piece of cooked salmon, and as a topping for a baked potato.

More Milk

Pro tip: Buttermilk is often sold in larger containers, meaning you’ll have a surplus after making the dressing. Buttermilk can be frozen, however, so Velardo suggests pouring measured amounts into plastic freezer storage bags. The next time you need buttermilk, the packets can be quickly defrosted in a bowl of warm water.

MAKE THE
Wedge Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Buttermilk Dressing
Wedge Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Buttermilk Dressing

YIELD

2 servings (plus leftover dressing)

INGREDIENTS

Dressing

Buttermilk, ½ cup

Sour cream, ¼ cup

Mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon

Fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons

Red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons

Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon

Large garlic clove, 1 (finely grated on a Microplane-style grater)

Fresh chives, ½ bunch (finely chopped; about ¼ cup)

Granulated sugar, ⅛ teaspoon

Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon

Freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon

Salad

Bacon, 4 thick-cut strips (preferably Vermont applewood-smoked bacon cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick strips)

Iceberg lettuce, ½ head (cored and halved lengthwise)

Cherry tomatoes, 1 cup (halved)

Medium beefsteak tomato, 1 (cored and sliced into wedges)

Small red onion, ¼ (thinly sliced lengthwise)

Ripe Hass avocado, ½ (pitted and chopped)

Gorgonzola cheese, 2 ounces (crumbled; optional)

EQUIPMENT

Chef’s knife

Cutting board

Measuring cups and spoons

Mixing bowls

Microplane-style grater

Whisk

Medium skillet

Metal spatula

Slotted spoon

Paper towels

Plates

DIRECTIONS

1. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the:

  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon juice
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Grated garlic
  • Finely chopped chives
  • Granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

2. Cook the bacon: In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the:

  • Bacon strips

Cook the bacon, using the metal spatula to stir it often, until the bacon is browned and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

3. Assemble the salad: Divide among two plates the:

  • Iceberg wedges
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Beefsteak tomato wedges
  • Sliced red onion
  • Chopped avocado
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola (if using)

Divide the dressing over the two plates. Serve sprinkled with the:

  • Crispy bacon
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