I’ve been doing an inordinate amount of menu writing lately. Summer menus, fall menus, beer dinner menus, wine dinner menus, charity dinner menus, harvest dinner menus…it really does require a great deal of research. Some dishes are variations on past winners, some are variations of meals encountered in other establishments and some are completely original, or at least original to me.
It is definitely a good exercise in challenging your beliefs about what cooking should be. Once you’ve learned that there is nothing in cooking that should be, you are then open to the possibility of what cooking can be. The beauty of cooking is there are no rules. The right way and the wrong way are subject only to opinion. In that way cooking is more like art. There is really very little difference in mixing paints like you might ingredients. The precision that is required in the stroke of a brush also exists in the use of sharp steels and carbons. And the end result of any art form is to evoke emotion.
Up until last weekend, I firmly believed that lettuce was not meant for the grill. Not ever, under any circumstance, was it necessary to char a tender green. Then, I was tasked with creating a few dishes slightly out of the norm. I was stumped to an extent, I gave in, it was time to try something new. While grilled romaine is not out of the norm, it did fit the bill of being a departure from where this particular restaurant had resided for years culinary-wise.
The Caesar dressing I have done for years didn’t fit the flavor profile of the charred lettuce very well, it needed a more acidic profile, also, not quite as creamy.
Grilled Romaine with Caesar Vinaigrette
Makes 1 quart
Caesar Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 Tbs. garlic, minced fine
¼ cup yellow onion, minced fine
1 oz anchovy, minced
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbs. course ground Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Tabasco
½ cup mayo
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup pecorino, grated
2 ½ cups canola oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, onion, anchovy, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, mayo, vinegar and pecorino.
2. Mix well and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
3. Whisk briskly while adding the canola oil in a slow, thin, steady stream.
4. Do the same with the olive oil.
5. Add the fresh black pepper and salt.
6. Can be held up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
3 large heads romaine lettuce
Olive oil for brushing
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan for garnishing
Romaine is a sturdy lettuce so it won’t wilt as quickly as more tender greens might. Still, you want to make sure you’re grill is extremely hot; you only want to flash the lettuce on the grill just long enough to char it a little. Depending on how hot your grill is, this could be as quick as 15 seconds or as long as 45 seconds.
1. Halve the romaine lengthwise, straight through the core and stem.
2. Leave the stem intact while you are grilling, it will make handling the romaine easier. If you want to remove it afterwards, that won’t be a problem.
3. Brush the cut side lightly with olive oil.
4. Place on the hottest part of the grill, cut side down, until the edges begin to char.
5. Remove from heat, brush immediately with Caesar vinaigrette, garnish with grated cheese and serve.
6. Great on its own as a salad or use as a side for beef, chicken, seafood and pork.
Look for a new weekly segment over on the ‘Food Photography‘ page, Pins of the week. I do love the ability that Pinterest provides to create virtual notebook. I spend a good deal of time searching for things to add and want to highlight some of my favorites.