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How to Make Bang-Up Blue Cheese Dressing

It's really an art more than a science.
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Every Friday on Food52, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great food at home.

Today, Tara from Seven Spoons helps us master the art of Blue Cheese Dressing.

For the longest time, I thought I didn't like blue cheese dressing. I'd had too many disappointing versions, often served alongside buffalo wings. Those ones that hit you in the face with an overpowering funk of cheese, and a consistency that could only be described as weirdly plastic. Then I was introduced to the iceberg wedge: the perfect balance of crunch, fat, and cool, bold with a proper blue cheese dressing, and the recipe was forever redeemed.

Blue cheese dressing can, and should, be brash -- yet still refined. Gutsy with cheese, bright with vinegar, and mollified with a hint of sweetness that’s bolstered by the richness of the mayonnaise and sour cream. It should have body without unnecessary weight.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: blue cheese dressing is an art more than a science. As such, the quantities here should be viewed as guidelines to steer you in the right direction, rather than hard and fast rules. Consider how you're going to use the dressing when tweaking both the texture and the seasoning.

I’ve taken to making thicker blue cheese dressings to slather on burgers or grilled steak. The fat adds even more oomph to the meat, and the cheese has more than enough personality to stand up to some char. It’s also undeniably good with crispy chicken wings. A moderately thick version is just the thing for those beloved chunks of iceberg lettuce, and I make a light, velvety rendition to dress arugula tossed with fresh corn kernels.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

2/3 cups mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream or thick yogurt

1/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon runny honey

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, scallions, or garlic scapes

Freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne-based hot sauce, dried red pepper flakes, or chili oil, to serve (optional)

If you like a smooth dressing, grab a medium bowl and mash the blue cheese into the mayonnaise with the back of a fork. If you prefer a chunky dressing, set your blue cheese aside.

Mix the mayonnaise with the sour cream, most of the buttermilk, and all of the vinegar and honey. Add the chives to the bowl, along with the blue cheese, if you're going the chunky route. Fold to combine, and season with pepper. Taste for seasoning, adding more buttermilk, vinegar, honey, or pepper, as necessary.

You can use the dressing right away, but I think it's even nicer after a day in the fridge, which gives the flavors a chance to round out. The dressing will thicken as it sits, but can be thinned with a few drops of water. Serve with a dash of hot sauce. Keep any leftover dressing in an airtight container in the fridge, and use up in a few days.

Photos by Tara O'Brady

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