The world probably doesn’t need another seven-layer salad recipe, but some of the ones I’ve seen out there are a little weird. White sugar? Parmesan? What? Here’s my vegetarian twist on my mom’s version, which, obviously, is the proper Midwestern mom version. She used to make this for Christmas Eve every year — it was an interesting accompaniment to an otherwise traditional Lithuanian meal. It’s a good thing to bring to potlucks because it’s huge, relatively easy, people generally eat at least a bit of it, and you can make it the night before. If you do the math, I think this should actually count as a 10-layer salad, but that just doesn’t sound right.
- one head iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced (original calls for 1 cup, which I find overwhelming but I’m not a celery fan)
- 1 medium-to-large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 12-ounce package frozen peas (no need to thaw)
- 1 generous cup shredded carrots
- 2 cups mayonnaise (regular or light)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup (or more — come on man, it’s cheese) shredded cheddar (preferably sharp)
- 4-6 hard-boiled (free range) eggs1 (I just used 4 but think 6 would’ve been better), chopped
- 8-10 veggie bacon slices, fried or microwaved until very crispy, cooled, and broken into bite-sized (or smaller, if you prefer) pieces (don’t cook and add this until right before serving the salad)
Layer all ingredients except veggie bacon into a gigantic (preferably glass or clear plastic) bowl in the order listed above, evenly distributing each item over the lettuce as much as possible. The mayo application is the trickiest part — I use a spoon to blop the mayo around the top of the salad and then a rubber scraper to spread it as if I were frosting a very delicate, weird cake.
Cover and put in the refrigerator. Chill for, ideally, at least 12 but no more than 24 hours. By the time you’re ready to serve, the peas will be thawed and the mayo and brown sugar will have been magically transformed into a delicious dressing with a complexity that belies its humble components (I exaggerate, but it is kind of cool).
At the last possible minute before you’re going to serve the salad, prepare and add the veggie bacon. This will help it stay crispy.
Enjoy your Midwestern mom food!
1. To make perfect hard-boiled eggs (not soft!) at Denver altitude (5280 feet), do this: Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add eggs right from the fridge (no need to bring to room temperature but be careful not to break them when you plop them in the water, like some people I know did the other day). Set a timer for 21 minutes. When the timer goes off, pour out the boiling water, put the pan in the sink, and let cold water run over the eggs until they’re cool.