Photo: Karl Gustafson
FeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.  

The headline explains it: I recently procured an entire gallon of ranch dressing. Half of you reading that sentence either gagged or lit up with pure, unadulterated delight. I’m not going to tell you who I mugged to get the gallon of ranch, but it’s been sitting in my refrigerator’s crisper drawer, which was the only place in my apartment I could get the jug to fit.

Ranch dressing is a divisive subject—the restaurant where I work as a pizzamaker has it banned altogether. Hard stop. That hasn’t prevented cheeky troublemakers from bringing their own in. You’ve got to respect their devotion.

This gallon was an unplanned ranch situation, and other than applying it onto a Slip’N Slide in our shared backyard (not sure our neighbors would approve of ranch all over the grass), I wasn’t sure where to start.

Thankfully, the future is now. I polled the public on Twitter, Instagram, my personal Facebook account, and in person. It turns out most of you are ranch haters who wish me a not insignificant degree of nausea, while also being curious about my stomach’s limits. There were some brilliant and constructive ideas, but mainly horrific ones. Basically, what I’m seeing is that most of you want me to get sick. You’re all hilarious!

Photo: Dennis Lee

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Some not-necessarily-food related suggestions:

  • Beer-bong it (sweet Jesus)
  • Fetish videos

Practical-ish:

  • Marinate chicken in it, then dredge in panko and fry
  • Replace mayonnaise in egg salad with ranch
  • Braise bacon in it
  • Make a pizza with it (no dice, it’s banned on premises, as I mentioned)
  • Create something called “Midwestern Clam Chowder”
  • Fill doughnuts with it
  • Substitute for Alfredo sauce

Truly insane:

  • Drink the whole thing or turn it into a cocktail (a lot of people voted for the beverage idea)
  • Make ranch-filled Gushers
  • Soup dumplings with ranch filling
  • Replace liquids in cake mix with ranch
  • Use maltodextrin, create ranch powder (which already exists, people)
  • Spherification for use in boba tea
  • Fill sausage casings, batter, and fry

If I had enough time, I’d do every single one of them. Since everyone suggested I just throw back a shot at the very least, I hit the ground running. I don’t recommend shooting ranch, unless you need to down a lot of calories in one blast.

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Photo: Dennis Lee

I’ve eaten a lot worse, but I do admit a straight ranch shooter was not my favorite life experience. The issue—actually, there are a lot of issues—is that ranch clings to the shot glass and you can’t get all of it unless you run your finger around the inside of the glass. This gallon of ranch is pretty generic; it’s watery, and the main flavors are of garlic and onion powder with a big uppercut of MSG.

Photo: Dennis Lee

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Another suggestion that kept coming up was to fill a doughnut with ranch dressing. Why, friends?

For some unknown reason, I have one of those marinade-injector devices. I’ve never used it until now. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself injecting ranch dressing into a Long John. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself typing that sentence.

Who knew that doughnuts can hold a lot of ranch dressing? The entire syringe emptied itself into the Long John. And yes, I know. The image is horrible. After my first bite, all I could really taste was the chocolate icing, which came in strong, but then the sour flavor of the mayonnaise-based dressing took over. That’s when the MSG set in with the lingering waxiness of the doughnut.

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Photo: Dennis Lee

I then cobbled together the idea of sous-viding some chicken breast in ranch dressing from a few disparate ideas. The initial suggestion was to sous-vide a geoduck, but if I was going to cook a penis-shaped clam, I’d do my best to, you know, savor it.

Photo: Dennis Lee

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My theory was that the dressing was going to solidify and congeal around the chicken breast, but thankfully, it didn’t.

As I took my first bite, I realized it wasn’t all that terrible. The salt seasoned the entire breast thoroughly and evenly. The ranch clung tightly to the exterior of the chicken, and there weren’t any off-putting flavors. Would I do this regularly? No. But I imagine chicken salad with chicken cooked this way could be a hit at a picnic potluck. This is the Midwest, after all.

The next suggestion I went with actually came directly from my coworkers.

I was having my shift drink after service, mulling ideas over, when my coworker Dana quietly suggested, “What about ranch cake?”

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Photo: Dennis Lee

We already know what mayonnaise can do for cake, so could this work? Since I’m not a big baker, I just picked up a non-fussy box mix and replaced every ounce of liquid in the preparation with ranch dressing. The batter immediately turned into a sort of a thick putty that was impossible to pour into the pan, so I had to loosen it up with a touch of water. Even then, it just sat there in the pan until I spread it out with a spatula.

I also bought some cheap imitation cream cheese frosting along with a ranch seasoning packet to sprinkle on top. Don’t tell me I’m not committed. When I baked it off, the kitchen filled up with the familiar nostalgic aroma of cake box mix with just a hint of what was in the cake.

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I took a bite.

The cake had that salty-sweet synergy going on, which worked out much better than I had anticipated. I hate this. I hate that ranch dressing cake can be a real thing. The icing with the dry ranch seasoning on top really didn’t do much for extra flavor, but the cake by itself was strangely satisfying. I ate more than I intended to.

And now to the most challenging part of my exploration: Ranch soup dumplings. Shoutout to Cecilia for suggesting this one. I can’t tell if that’s a positive shoutout or not.

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The magic of soup dumplings is the wonderful, piping hot soup that bursts out after your first bite. But since ranch is a liquid, it’s not like you can just shove it into the center of a wrapper. I’d have to turn the dressing into something solid that melted as the dumpling cooked. The trick? Gelatin. I had to essentially make chicken ranch Jell-O.

And that’s exactly what I did. I bloomed some dry gelatin in cold water and mixed some chicken bits in. And here’s the most horrific act of cooking—to dissolve the gelatin, I had to mix it with hot ranch dressing. I’ll repeat myself: Hot ranch dressing.

I gritted my teeth, and straight-up microwaved it. The thing about heating up ranch dressing to a certain point is that when it starts cooking at those temperatures, it dries out and turns into a solid. Please do not ask why I already know this. I had a small window of opportunity and as soon as it started to bubble in the microwave, I dumped it right into the bowl of gelatin. Once everything was dissolved, I let the Jell-O set up in the fridge and prayed for forgiveness.

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Photo: Dennis Lee

A few hours later, the unholy filling began to set, to gel, to coagulate. Stuffing dumplings is a little tricky and tedious, but if you pay attention to crimping the wontons tightly, you’ll get the hang of it. As long as the filling is firm enough to not spill out, you’re doing all right. A quick jump into boiling water, and my masterpiece was complete.

Photo: Dennis Lee

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I shoved the entire soup dumpling in my mouth, whole. It was simultaneously the funniest and possibly worst food I’ve ever eaten. The dumpling burst with a hot flood of ranch, with little chicken bits floating around in it. It was kind of like a ranch pimple popped in my mouth. I’m actually speechless. It obviously tasted like ranch, but watered down, vulgar, and weirdly satisfying at the same time. The violence of the explosion in my mouth was probably the most disconcerting part of the whole event.

Actually, all of it was disconcerting.

In the end, I barely made it through a quarter of the gallon. But a quarter of a gallon of ranch is... still a lot of ranch. I haven’t thrown the rest away, because I’m optimistic that there’s practical uses for it in much smaller quantities. Maybe I’ll take you guys up on that egg salad idea. I’ve also got a box of Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix in the pantry. Barring those, I guess I just have a lot more ranch cake in my future.

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