Today’s recipe is relatively simple and unexciting. (And if that intro doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.) You see, last night was a big night in my nerdy life, my equivalent of the way some people feel about the Super Bowl or, heck, even the Westminster Dog Show. It was, of course, the premiere of another season of Survivor. (Yes, I still watch the show most of you gave up on nine years ago. And not only that, but I participate in weekly viewing parties! Just like the elderly!) So instead of slaving away in the kitchen for six hours, I had to get down to business and whip something up quickly, so we could settle in front of the TV like the lethargic slobs we are on Wednesday nights six months out of the year.
While Kevin made homemade pesto-and-baguette appetizers and Katie brought over her taco dip and poured herself a glass of wine (as teachers tend to do, I’ve learned, after the first day of school), I whipped up a fairly bland stir fry I am not proud of. I won’t even give you the recipe, because it was pointless, aside from merely providing sustenance to allow us to endure drinking through three unfathomable hours of reality television.
Gwyneth’s Coarse Mustard Dressing, additionally, seemed easy enough. Plus, if I could find endives, I could also create her Endive Salad (which is literally two ingredients — the aforementioned dressing and some endives; it still counts as a recipe towards our total, though!). Alas, it being the tail-end of summer, I could not yet find endives. So much for the two-birds-with-one-stone thing.
The recipe begins by explaining what granary mustard is (“coarse” and “seedy,” for the unaware), as well as an overview of what else it could be good with (fresh bread with roasted turkey and cornichons, which actually sounds GREAT). We also get a brief history of this dressing: It was inspired by the “great restaurant” J. Sheekey in London. Apparently, Gwyneth used to order their endive salad with this dressing “every night when coming offstage at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2002.” NAME-DROP MUCH? (A quick search reveals she is referring to her tenure as the lead in the play Proof, which the Guardian gave three stars out of five, but says of Gwyneth, “I’d say she’s definitely got the theatrical gift: watching her one can easily imagine her in a long line of future Ibsen and Chekhov roles.” And, later: “Paltrow… has the eyes of a lynx.” A very belated congratulations to Ms. Paltrow on her acting prowess and her feline eyes, of course.)
The actual dressing-making process is extremely simple. Mix granary mustard (I used the Grey Poupon we had in our fridge, even though I’m not even sure it counts as “granary mustard.” I mean, it has seeds in it, so that has to count for something, right?) with white wine vinegar, black pepper, and a pinch of granulated sugar. At the mention of this last ingredient, Gwyneth adds a jovial, “(shh!),” presumably urging us to take the secret of the granulated sugar to our WATERY GRAVES (we’re all going to drown when the polar ice caps melt; sorry!). At this, I have clearly failed. I also loudly announced to everyone in the kitchen, “There’s sugar in this?” Never trust me with your secrets.
To that pleasant mustard-y mix, you then whisk in some olive oil and vegetable oil (I used canola oil because it’s what I had on hand, and it’s healthier; I’m actually surprised Gwyneth even mentioned vegetable oil, to tell the truth). You’re then supposed to drizzle this dressing over some endives, but, as I mentioned before, we didn’t have any. Rather, we tore up some romaine lettuce and topped it with julienned carrots and cucumbers. And that was our salad.
The dressing was actually pretty damn good (although, let’s be honest here — it’s almost only oil mixed with high-quality mustard, about as simple as a mustard dressing can get). Katie described it as a “very manly salad,” which I find hard to explain but totally agree with. It’s the kind of dressing you’d put on a salad before blasting away a grouse or a deer with a sawed-off shotgun; or the kind of dressing you’d use to grease the wheels of your cannon as you hauled the artillery into battle; or the kind of dressing you’d slather across your face in lieu of shaving cream before drawing a straight razor down your cheek. Or, for some of us, the kind of dressing you wolf down before plopping your fat ass in front of the television. To each their own, I suppose.