Thousand Island Dressing – The “Special Sauce” Revealed

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
Burgers in need of Thousand Island Dressing

Thousand Island Dressing is so old, it’s new again. These cheeseburgers, delicious as they are, can benefit from some special sauce.

When my nephew Stephen was a kid he asked me where I got that awesome pink sauce we had served with burgers at a family picnic. Having grown up in the sophisticated Chipotle-Buffalo-Ranch-Bruschetta drive-thru era, Stephen didn’t recognize that good old 20th century American drive-thru favorite, “special sauce.”

When we grew up, MacDonald’s special sauce on the Big Mac was the first condiment other than mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise that anyone considered for a burger. Way before pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and made-up foreign-sounding food names, even the pedestrian “special sauce” was fancy enough to attract attention. How long did it take us to figure out that it was just like Thousand Island dressing?

The mystery ingredient is chili sauce, ketchup’s misnamed cousin parked next to the cocktail sauces. It looks and tastes like ketchup, but chili sauce is not quite as sweet or silky smooth as ketchup, and packs no apparent “chili” flavor.

For fancy presentation, serve bun-less chopped steak burgers alongside crisp iceberg wedges and ripe tomato slices scattered with thinly sliced red onion and crumbled bacon, and Special Sauce. Or, slather over burgers topped with lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions…on a sesame seed bun.

If  “Thousand Island” is not fancy enough for you, you can call it classic Sauce Louis and serve with chilled shrimp or crab. However you refer to is, it’s worth knowing how to whip up a dressing or two for salads and burgers.

How about these easy variations:

Shrimp Cocktail Salad, otherwise known as Shrimp Louis with  Quick Thousand Island Dressing.shrimp cocktail salad

Tomato Vinaigrette, a great use for an overripe tomato.

Blue Cheese Dip, make with buttermilk for a quick dressing

Buttermilk Ranch with Vidalia Onion, a nice variation.

Vinaigrette with a little Mayo, this helps keep the dressing emulsified.



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