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Cooking with Virginia: Crunchy Creole Ranch Salmon

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Ranch dressing is as American as apple pie and baseball. Americans love ranch dressing. Everyone loves ranch dressing. Even snooty chefs and foodies that look down their nose at bottled dressing love ranch dressing! Ranch dressing is the culinary equivalent to Pigs in a Blanket. Pigs in a Blanket are the first dish that disappears on a buffet a party. It’s the same with ranch dressing. Put out some ranch and something will take a dip in it. Ranch dressing is easy to love.

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People use it for everything from what it is made for, as a salad dressing and a dip for vegetables, to you name it —a dip or a drizzle for chicken wings, pizza, burgers, kebabs, salty snacks, and more. It can do way more than dress salads. Ranch dressing is rich and creamy with a savory blend of herbs and spices. It’s not too oily, not too rich, and, it’s mayonnaise-based and that means Southerners really like it. (Mayonnaise is its own food group in the South.) Even though I sometimes make it from scratch, I always keep a store-bought bottle in the fridge.

Ranch dressing can cook, too. From a culinary standpoint, that means it’s also an emulsion of egg and oil. The mayonnaise component helps keeps proteins moist and juicy. There are a lot of chef-hacks of cooking with mayonnaise from thickening a sauce to a butter replacement for a grilled cheese sandwich.

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Creole Ranch Dressing

Well, get ready to take your love of ranch up a notch! Tony Chachere’s has a new line of salad dressings that includes Ranch, Italian, and French. The ranch has got a little kick, not so much that it’s too spicy. It’s just enough that you know you’re getting your #CreoleCanDo on! It’s the perfect flavor blend of rich buttermilk and a peppercorn-like zing. My friend Jim said, “This ranch dressing would taste good on anything; it would even make ranch dressing taste better!”

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Flatten the Curve

These are really tough times for everyone with the Coronavirus crisis. It’s scary! The CDC and WHO advises that we need to stay and home and help flatten the curve. So, that means if you forget an ingredient, it’s not a good idea just run out to the grocery store. And, if you and your family eat out on a regular basis, that’s changed, too. Maybe you aren’t used to cooking 7 nights a week – especially after working from home with your partner and home-schooling your kids! Yikes. That means that this might be an even more challenging time for you and that means you need comfort and EASY.

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One-Pot Wonder

Meals made in one pot save time, make for easy clean-up and don’t require expensive equipment or fancy ingredients. (For more tips check out this post with a recipe for Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes.) The most important thing is that everything cooks in the same amount of time. In this recipe, the salmon doesn’t take that long to cook, which means that what goes with it can’t either.

Instead of serving protein with a vegetable and a starch, I often serve a protein with two vegetables. Cooked or canned chickpeas are a great side dish. They are very starchy and from a textural standpoint are very potato-like. To celebrate spring, I am suggesting using seasonal asparagus for the green vegetable. You could also use green beans or broccoli, but you will want to chop them into 1/2-inch pieces, too.

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Double Duty

A little of the Tony Chachere’s Creole Ranch Dressing is used to coat the vegetables and more is Creole Ranch Dressing is used as the “egg wash” to hold the topping. Remember above with the mayonnaise? Well, the Creole Ranch helps keep the meat moist, just like mayonnaise. And, doubling up on one ingredient in a recipe is fundamental to building flavor.

In terms of the panko topping, you can chef it up and add some or all of the parsley, lemon, garlic, and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning or simply use plain breadcrumbs, for a more down-home comfort food approach. Don’t worry – one way other the other, this recipe works and tastes delicious!

Lastly, this technique works with both salmon and boneless skinless chicken breasts, making it exceptionally versatile. (The key is not to use mammoth chicken breasts because they can take a lot longer to cook.) This meal is the “non-recipe” dish you need to get an EASY, homemade, and delicious dinner on the table. (Psst the leftovers are great, too.)

Stay Safe and Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis

PS Need a mail-order source for sustainable seafood – use this link OR promo code VIRGINIA for $25 off 

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Crunchy Creole Ranch Salmon

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: dinner, lunch, main
Cuisine: American, Cajun, Creole, Southern
Keyword: 30 minute meal, chicken, easy, poached salmon, ranch dressing, skillet supper
Servings: 4
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 lemon, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • pinch Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 15- ounce chickpeas, drained
  • 1 pound asparagus, stem ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Ranch Dressing, divided
  • 24 ounces boneless skinless salmon filet
  • OR 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)


  • Heat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl combine the panko, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, and oil. Set aside.
  • Place the drained chickpeas and asparagus in a large ovenproof skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of the Tony Chachere’s Creole Ranch Dressing. Stir to combine.
  • Place the salmon filets on top of the vegetables. Spread remaining Tony Chachere’s Creole Ranch Dressing on top of the salmon. Sprinkle over reserved panko combination. Transfer to the oven and cook until the asparagus is tender and the chickpeas are heated through. When checked with an instant-read thermometer, the salmon should register 130-145°F and the chicken should read 165°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Disclaimer: When there’s an appropriate mutually beneficial opportunity I partner for sponsored blog posts. In full disclosure, I was provided product to work with by Tony Chachere’s for recipe development and compensated for this blog post and its social media promotion. 

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.) 

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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