If you ask anyone who knows me what my least-favorite food is, they would tell you unequivocally, absolutely, hands-down, bleu cheese. In our house growing up in Michigan, we didn’t really have exposure to many salad dressings besides French and good ol’ fashioned Ranch. (I also didn’t realize until moving to the south that the Midwest is known for drowning everything in Ranch… is this true?) So when I went to a luncheon for a beauty pageant I was entering during high school, I had no idea what I was ordering. I thought it would just taste like Ranch or, oh, I don’t know, cheese? If only I had asked what was in it. Then the waitress would’ve said, “Mayo, sour cream, chunks of moldy cheese…” and my life would’ve been much different.

When our salads came to the table they looked delicious. And hey, the dressing looked just like Ranch. I took a nice healthy bite and… oh, did I mention we were having lunch with the judges of the pageant? So, yup, I was stuck chewing and SWALLOWING the moldy cheese, which by this time sure TASTED like moldy cheese… and I just wanted to die. My eyes started watering while I tried to resist the temptation to scrape my tongue with my butter knife. Somehow I held it together. After the luncheon we had our first round of interviews for the pageant and all I could think was that I was breathing moldy cheese breath all over them. It was definitely a memorable day. The day I swore off bleu cheese or kissing anyone who had ever eaten it. Ever.

Fast-forward 25 years and my husband and I are having dinner at one of our favorites… Carrabba’s. Hey, there’s a new appetizer, I say. Let’s try it.  He agrees. Our Wood-Fired Italian Wings come to the table and boy, are they some of the best wings I’ve ever had. Truly. And the dipping sauce. Come to momma. I could drink the stuff. It’s creamy with a twinge of something I can’t quite put my finger on. Months pass, I go to Carrabba’s a number of times and can’t ever pass up the wings.

A few weeks ago my daughter was home for Thanksgiving break which means DATE NIGHT! (She loves to watch/hog/spoil her 2-year-old brother so it’s not like we’re really taking advantage.) While we’re finishing up our meal, the waiter comes by to see if we need anything and my husband asks, “That sauce has bleu cheese in it, doesn’t it?” The waiter confirms this and my husband gives me a look like he’s waiting for the realization to wash over me. At first I thought, Gross! I’m never kissing him again! Thinking he was talking about something he had ordered on his entree. Then I realize what he’s pointing at… the wing dipping sauce. Oh the horrrrrah! It was like finding out you’re adopted or your dog died or you’ve been not only blindly eating bleu cheese, but enjoying it. With a disgusted look on my face I grabbed a menu and read, “Wood-Fired Italian Wings – Seasoned with spicy Italian chili pepper. Served with our gorgonzola dipping sauce.” *Insert cartoon jaw hitting floor*

When the shock wore off, I thought, Well, it IS delicious. Maybe my taste has changed over the years? Plus, Rudy ate it too and I can’t stop kissing him. He’s kinda cute and I’m keeping him.

So I decided to conduct an experiment to see if I will enjoy eating bleu cheese while actually knowing that I’m eating it. Since I know I like the Carrabba’s version, I tried to get it as close to the original as possible, even without a recipe to work with. I was only 100% sure of one of the ingredients.

I started with putting together the recipe for seasoning the wings. I did some research and there are SO many kinds of Italian hot peppers.  I know the Carrabba’s version comes with some little red ones but didn’t see any like that so I just went with what I could find, Italian long hots.

Italian long hots

I sliced them very thin and sautéed them with olive oil, a diced yellow onion, 4 minced cloves of garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  I let them get some good color and then I let them cool a bit before adding them to the food processor. I added a little more olive oil, salt, and pepper and just pulsed it to where the pieces were small but still identifiable. You want the pieces to stick to the wings but you don’t want a pulp. I tossed the wings, still frozen, with the pepper mixture and handed off to Rudy for grilling. A note about the wings: We have found that it is worth the extra cost to buy name brand. In our experience they have been meatier and tastier.

For the dip, I combined 3 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola with 1/2 cup mayo, 2 cups sour cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan and added to a mini casserole dish. Then I sprinkled Italian seasoning on top and baked it at 375° for 30 minutes. I’m not even sure if Carrabba’s bakes their dip, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

As soon as the wings came off the grill (approximately 30 minutes) they were served with a side of the delicious, warm, dip.  You read that right, it was delicious. No one is more surprised than me. Totally out of the bleu.

We also tried this on steak and it was amazing! Let me know if you try it and what you used it with. I’d love to hear other experiences and ideas.

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