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Fit for a Palace: Green Goddess Dressing

How’s this for a request:  A reader who lives in North Dakota enjoyed our post about Thousand Island Dressing and its origins on the US/Canadian border (See http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2013/10/the-saga-of-thousand-island-dressing.html).  Anonymously, said reader commented that a restaurant in Mandan, North Dakota had closed, forever locking the secret to their ‘absolutely divine’ version of Green Goddess dressing behind their closed doors. The Captain’s Table version, “W” wrote, was a mayonnaise and sour cream-based concoction. The comment finished “If you could find the original Green Goddess recipe I’d be one happy partially frozen No-Daker.” This is the kind of challenge I love to take on.  Although I had to ask myself if, in addition to the lack of Green Goddess Dressing, there was also no Google in North Dakota.  Nevertheless, I learned a lot about Green Goddess’ origins and like so many food stories this one is fascinating.

Unlike so many recipes, there’s no doubt about the origin of Green Goddess, a creamy mixture of mayonnaise, tarragon vinegar, tarragon, chives, anchovies, green onion and garlic.  Note the absence of sour cream! But this is the original recipe which was created by Chef Phillip Roemer at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923. Of course, those pesky food historians have found the roots of the recipe, in, where else, France. It’s pointed out that Green Goddess is awfully similar to the creation of a chef in Louis XIII’s court for a “Sauce au Vert”.  (Said sauce was served with green eel.) Nevertheless, this particular “Sauce au Vert” came from one great hotel kitchen.
The Palace Hotel occupies a unique position in the history of the Western US. It was first
built in 1875 with a capacity for 1200 hotel guests.  It was by far the largest hostelry in the West for years after it was built.   It  was also a culinary destination in a city that even then had a great reputation for food. The Palace employed famous chefs starting with Jules Harder who was hired away from New York’s Delmonico, the first real restaurant in the United States dating as it did from 1830. Also invented at the Palace was another dish you may find familiar:  Turkey Tetrazini, an homage to Opera Star Luisa Tetrazini who lived in the hotel on a long-term basis.
The Garden Court
The Palace was completely destroyed in the great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906.  Its owner, a man named Frederick Sharon, vowed to rebuild and did so in record time.  The hotel reopened in 1909 with a memorable evening held under the dome of its magnificent Palm Court. Today that space is called the Garden Court and lo and behold, for a grand total of $15. you can enjoy its Farmer’s Market Salad topped with, you guessed it, Green Goddess Dressing.
The Green Goddess, made into a movie
What’s in a name?  Chef Roemer was charged with the menu for a 1923 banquet at the Palace honoring actor George Arliss who happened to have the lead in a production of a William Archer play entitled “The Green Goddess”. Over the years, hundreds of variations of the recipe have appeared. That’s where ingredients like sour cream—even Worcestershire sauce came into play.  But the one I am sharing with you I know to be legitimate.  It’s from a woman named Julie Murray, Chef Roemer’s granddaughter.  Murray wanted to see his recipe live on telling the San Francisco Gate newspaper that what passes for the Chef’s classic recipe has little resemblance to his original.  When the chef died in 1936, the family kept the collection of recipes he’d created.  Because, in addition to his post at the Palace, the chef also taught cooking classes and wrote for the San Francisco Call newspaper. The secrets to the recipe were revealed in the San Francisco Gate and I am repeating them here:
There’s a double dose of this herb, not only from the fresh leaves, which when mixed with parsley gives the dressing a vivid green color, but in the vinegar that’s flavored with the herb.
The greens:
Escarole, romaine and chicory are strong-flavored greens that complement and stand up to the bold flavor of the dressing.
Wooden bowl: The salad should be tossed in a wooden bowl, which is rubbed with garlic before the greens and dressing are added; giving just a fresh hint of garlic.  Here is the recipe.

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