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Although Maurice’s identity may have faded, his chef salad lives on

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

While Maurice’s identity may have faded, his chef salad lives on

I recently received a correspondence from a reader who asked if I had ever heard of a “Maurice Salad.” He mentioned that his wife had worked at a small restaurant years ago and one day when they had closed up for the evening, the owner invited all the employees to a back room off the kitchen for a salad and some crusty bread. 

His wife said it was the “best salad I’ve ever had” but was hesitant about asking for the recipe. It was called a Maurice Salad. Neither he nor his wife has heard of it since but she remembered that it had a fantastic dressing mixed with different meats over a bed of lettuce. I admit that I had never heard of it either, but was curious enough to check it out. 

What is a Maurice Salad?

A famous Detroit department store, J.L. Hudson’s, first popularized this version of a chef’s salad in its in-store restaurants back in the early 60s. Shoppers would spend hours looking for bargains and then would go upstairs and have lunch in the dining room. The store was later known as Dayton-Hudson and then Marshall Field’s. Today, the stores have all converted to Macy’s, and in the Detroit area, still serve the Maurice Salad in their restaurants.

Legend has it that the salad is named for “Maurice,” who was a chef at J.J. Hudson’s at the time, but nobody really knows for sure. The salad is a version of a chef salad made with a lemony mayonnaise dressing mixed with large portions of julienned ham, turkey, Swiss cheese and sweet gherkin pickles and then served over some shredded iceberg lettuce.

Every once in a while, we come upon a recipe that’s made with such a different combination that it turns a normal bunch of ingredients into something really special. This would make a truly excellent and healthy lunch salad or in smaller portions, a light dinner salad.

The original recipe is included in The Marshall Field’s Cookbook, which my good neighbor Monica Jones was kind enough to lend to me.

For all you trivia buffs

In 1960, a Cass Technical High School student from Detroit became the first black bus girl in the basement cafeteria at J.J. Hudson’s Department Store. Her name was Diana Ross!

Maurice Salad

For the dressing:

2 tsp. white vinegar

1-1/2 tsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-1/2 tsps. onion juice

1-1/2 tsps. sugar

1-1/2 tsps. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

1 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley

1 hard-cooked egg, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

1 lb. ham, julienned

1 lb. cooked turkey breast, julienned

1 lb. Swiss cheese, julienned

1/2 cup slivered sweet gherkin pickles

1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

12 pimiento-stuffed green olives for garnish, optional

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and blend thoroughly. Using a larger bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients, except the lettuce, and mix well. Add the dressing and toss lightly.

On each salad plate, place an equal portion of shredded lettuce and then top with the salad/dressing mixture. Add olives for garnish, if desired. Makes six servings.

Mexican Three-Bean Salad

This salad uses a Mexican cheese, Cotija queso seco, which is available at our local markets.

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15 oz.) can whole green beans, drained

3 Tbsps. olive oil

3 green onions, sliced

1-2 jalapenos, seeded, chopped

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 cup Cotija queso seco cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/3 cup lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

In a large bowl, add the green beans, pinto and black beans. Drizzle olive oil over and toss to combine. Mix in the green onions, jalapeño, garlic and Cotija cheese. 

In a separate bowl, mix the lime juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves; add to the salad. Coat the beans well and allow to marinate for at least one hour, preferably several hours. Before serving, add the cilantro and toss. Add more salt to taste, if needed. Makes 4-6 servings.

Heirloom Tomato and Tuna Salad

This is an easy salad for two made with sliced heirloom tomatoes layered over lettuce leaves and topped with tuna and olives and drizzled with a balsamic vinegar dressing.

1/2 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 (6-oz.) can oil-packed tuna, drained

10-12 black olives (can substitute other olives)

Balsamic vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

Dried oregano

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste 

Place equal portions of lettuce leaves on two plates. Layer tomato slices over the lettuce. Top with equal spoonfuls of the flaked tuna and then sprinkle olives over the salad.

Drizzle vinegar and olive oil over the salad. Season to taste with dried oregano, salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Tarragon Corn

For a change of pace, try this tarragon-flavored corn side dish.

4 Tbsps. butter

1/2 cup green onions, sliced (white and green parts)

3 cups fresh corn (or if frozen, thawed)

1 Tbsp. packed, minced fresh tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the corn, salt and about one tablespoon of water. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the corn is tender and heated through.

Remove from heat and stir in the tarragon. Add pepper and more salt to taste. Makes 3-4 servings.