Smoking ground black pepper over mesquite chips in a cast-iron skillet enriches its flavor. Use to prepare a creamy dressing for a steakhouse-style wedge salad with crispy bacon and shallots.
For the Dressing, mix mayonnaise, sour cream and milk in medium bowl. Stir in vinegar, garlic, smoked black pepper, Italian seasoning and onion salt until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.
For the Shallots, toss shallots with flour in large bowl. Heat oil in small skillet or saucepan on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the shallots; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until well browned, stirring occasionally to prevent shallots from burning. Remove with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining shallots. (Shallots will become crispier as they cool.)
For the Wedge Salad, place lettuce and tomato wedges on each salad plate. Drizzle with Dressing. Sprinkle with bacon and Frizzled Shallots.
To smoke spices: Spread 1 cup fine mesquite wood chips in cast-iron skillet. Heat on high heat about 10 minutes or until wood chips start to smoke. Reduce heat to low. Place small baking rack on top of wood chips. Spread coarse ground black pepper in small shallow disposable aluminum pan or foil muffin baking cup. Place pan on rack. Cover skillet with lid. (In order to keep the smoke in, lid should cover skillet tightly. If necessary, place aluminum foil over skillet first then cover with lid.) Smoke 30 minutes. Turn heat off. Let stand 1 hour or until cooled.
• For Creamy Smoked Black Pepper Parmesan Dressing, add 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.
• To test if oil is hot enough for frying shallots, add 1 shallot ring. If it starts sizzling immediately the oil is ready.
• To remove core from iceberg lettuce, hold lettuce with 2 hands with core end down and slam against counter. Core will be detached and can now be easily removed.
• Dressing yields 1 1/3 cups. You will need 1/2 cup for the Salad. Store leftover dressing in refrigerator up to 1 week. Serve over green salad, as a dipping sauce for chicken wings or chicken nuggets, or toss with pasta salad.