Caesar salads are a favorite in our household and generally a weekly request on the dinner menu. Occasionally I’ll switch up the lettuce, bold moves, I know. Or, I’ll even dare to grill some chicken alongside. But there is an occasion, mainly when it gets cold out, that I want something more than just a crisp cool salad for dinner. So, to up my game, I grill it. Yes, grill the romaine. It’s not a new concept, but really not enough people do it. It’s kinda one of those things, looks pretty fancy and showy, but its dead simple to do, and it adds that extra bit of flavor to make you feel like you’re eating something special for dinner.
One other alteration you may have noticed from the pic, is that I tend to like to add breadcrumbs to the mix, rather than just a standard crouton. This is simply because I like to get maximal carb intake with each bite. And, it can be a little easier to grab odds and ends pieces of bread from my freezer, chuck them in the the food processor and quickly toast them in a pan. But, if your more into the whole crouton thing, then do it that way. I also highly recommend pulling apart the bread in small, rough chucks. Forget those prefect cubed croutons. Too fussy.
The primary component of the salad is clearly the lettuce, romaine lettuce, so get the best quality you can. You’ll want the lettuce to have a “nice weight to it and no rust”, this is all from my live-in produce purveyor, he knows what he’s talking about. Make sure it’s fresh and crisp, if you try and grill old limp lettuce it will resemble some gross beached seaweed rather than the charred, cool, crisp version we’re aiming for here. Other than that you’ll need some fresh lemons, and the rest you’ll probably have in your pantry. I typically use anchovies, stored in oil, but if you don’t have them just substitute with a bit of Worcestershire sauce. You’ll want to make sure you get that umami hit in there. And, this goes without saying, but try and get the best ingredients you can. There are only a few, so for example, if you get parmesan that has the flavor of cardboard, you’ll probably have a salad that taste like cardboard. No bueno.
You’ll want the lettuce to have a “nice weight to it and no rust”, this is all from my live-in produce purveyor, he knows what he’s talking about.
The only special equipment you’ll need is an immersion blender or regular blender, food processor or maybe just a mortar and pestle or a good deal of patience. You just need to mush up the dressing, mainly the garlic and anchovies. Just use a fork, you’ll have one of those. And, for grilling the romain, I used a cast iron grill pan, it looks nice in the pic, but just use cast iron pan or skillet, whatever you have. Though, do note, I would not recommend using a non-stick pan here. You’ll want to get the pan screaming hot so you can get some color on the lettuce without it wilting and you’ll ruin your non-stick pan and more importantly the off-gases are no good for anyone in close proximity. Keep the non-stick to crêpes and omelettes.
Grilled Caesar Salad
with breadcrumbs and parmigiano
Enough for two, at least two as hungry as we get.
- 1 anchovy or a few splashes of Worcestershire
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
- 1/4c olive oil
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1/2 tsp mayo – totally optional, helps keep things emulsified, you could also more classically use an egg yolk, totally up to you
- 1 clove garlic
- S&P if you need/like it
The other stuff
- 2 large heads of romaine
Special Equipment: immersion blender or regular blender, food processor or maybe just a mortar and pestle or a good deal of patience.
To make the dressing add your ingredients into a blender, or immersion blender safe container. Blend it. Taste to make sure its all good and adjust if needed. You can also mush everything together in a large bowl with a fork too. You just want a creamy dressing with no large chunks of anchovy or garlic.
Toast breadcrumbs in the oven, or even better toast them with some olive oil in a pan till crisp.
Split the romaine heads in half and give them a quick blot with a paper towel if there is any excess moisture. Give a small drizzle of oil on the cut surface, or even brush on a little bit of the dressing if you like. Get your pan screaming hot and grill the romain for 30 seconds or so. You want a little color, not a soggy sloppy mess.
Plate it all up and enjoy.