For the Cajun BBQ cook-off, rather than competing with the men cooking and smoking various meats, I opted to make a Wop Salad and Dirty Rice (which can be read about here). So what is a Wop Salad?. For starters, it’s not the most politically correct term for what is essentially an Italian (style) salad from New Orleans (A Wop is what they used to call the Sicilian immigrants, allegedly). Given there was a lot of protein on the menu, I thought (after a suggestion from The Scottish Woman) that a Wop Salad would be ideal so I turned my attention to looking for recipes on t’interweb.
As with any dish, there are many variable recipes; some suggested making your own olive salad – some didn’t have any olives at all, some suggested crumbling some gorgonzola and some even suggested buying a ready-made dressing. However, there were some things that I figured were staples of a Wop Salad so my version was a mixture of the different recipes that research brought up:
Firstly, the lettuce; it needed to be crisp lettuce and in particular, it needed Romaine lettuce. I added some iceberg too for additional crunch but there wasn’t going to be anything like raddichio or frisée.
Dressing; there was absolutely no chance I was going to buy the dressing when they’re so simple to make and looking at the recipes, it was essentially a basic vinaigrette which I made using red and white wine vinegars, Dijon mustard, olive and veg oils, a touch of sweetener and added some dried mixed Italian herbs.
Then there was the question of what to add; tomatoes (cut into wedges) were a must, as were anchovies (and I got some gorgeous ones from Costco). As I went to the Moseley Farmer’s Market the day before, it seemed rude not to buy a mixed olive selection from the Olive Man. I did also get some cucumber and green peppers but somehow completely forgot to add them (I’m blaming my old age). As for cheese, I got some Pecorino Romano to add a bit of piquancy to the salad.
I’m not going to insult you all by talking you through how to mix a salad, but the only thing I would probably change would be to mix the pecorino with the salad and dressing first and put the anchovies on top, rather than mixing everything, then adding the anchovies and covering it all with the Pecorino (which made it look unsightly). The flavours were there and I think the salad was a light relief to the protein – Although as YKL suggested, the point of salad was so that you could feel hungry again afterwards to eat more meat..
So how was the cook-off? It was every bit as brilliant as I hoped/expected: We all ate VERY well and were completely stuffed to the gills, we even managed to each take a sizeable amount home from the leftovers too. All the food was delicious – From Lap’s sublime andouille to Tom’s amazing boudin balls, Mark/Bruce/Enya Fan’s tasty chicken wings to Nick’s seriously good beans and brisket, everything was rounded off by Hannah’s apple pie which I think we all would have had more of if we had room! Even the drinks were good, we had a nice concoction of Bourbon, lemonade and Cherry Juice affectionately called the “BLC” and special mention should go to Nick’s Picklebacks. Even though he had never tried it himself and only had what I (the only person who has tried it) and Pitt Cue had told him, this version wasn’t too far off the original. A super effort and even though others may not have been so enthusiastic about it, I want to let it be known that I personally loved it. You know things are good when we only managed to finish 2 items: The apple pie (although there was another whole one which was distributed out to take home therefore technically we didn’t actually finish it..) and the Rye Whiskey (of which I’m guilty of drinking a fair bit of) It may have taken several attempts, but I think they decided that there would be another Popstrami – Hopefully in January, details of which I’m sure will be given out once plans are finalised. And that my friends, is only a good thing when you consider how amazingly good the food we cooked and ate was on a sunny day in a quiet garden in Birmingham. I was very fortunate and glad to have been invited along by Nick and I hope that we can do something again. For now though, there’s only one thing to say: “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” (and please invite me to the next one!).