June 10, 2011

Grilled Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps

You are going to want to try this. I mean it. When I first heard of grilled Caesar salad, I don’t know why I thought twice. But, I certainly did, because… who puts lettuce on a bbq?!  Having said that, now that I know what grilled lettuce is like, I don’t know if normal, non-grilled salad will ever be the same.

If you don’t want to try the grilling and don’t want to make your own crisps, then please do me (and yourself) a favour and use this dressing recipe anyway…You can kaput any Caesar recipe you know and just use this dressing because it is simply fantastic. An alternative salad that I make quite frequently uses this dressing on romaine lettuce, with aged white cheddar pedals, crisped spicy capicollo ham, croutons and fresh lemon.

Since this dressing uses three different vinegars, and quite a few of other ingredients, I think it might be a good time to bring up a common issue I hear from my fellow wanna-be-great cooks…the long list of ingredients is a barrier because you likely don’t have all of them and you end up having to go to the store and hunt for a bunch of things and rack up a big bill.

I know. The only solution I can offer on that is the more recipes you try...the more ingredients you have! Next time you see a recipe that uses three vinegars, no problem! If there is any time to spend a little time in the market and to challenge old favourites, now is that time!

You will love this crowd-pleasing-slash-wowing recipe, adapted form Leslie Stowe.

Parmesan Crisps
6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
Baguette (to make as many crisps as you like (I usually serve two per person), sliced very thin (1/2 cm) on the diagonal – easier to slice if it is day old
Parmesan, finely shredded – enough to generously top each crisp

Romaine hearts (with loose outer leaves removed, core attached), halved or quartered depending on the size
Optional - Prosciutto, bacon or other ham – chopped and crisped
Lemon to garnish
Ground black pepper to taste

The Ultimate Caesar Salad Dressing
1/2 tsp hot sauce, like Tobasco or Franks
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 egg
4 cloves or garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil

1. Heat oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let rest for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 250F. Lay the baguette slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with garlic oil. Reserve the remaining oil. Generously top each slice with parmesan cheese and bake until edges are starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients except olive oil and pulse to mix. With the blender running, drizzle the oil in slowly to emulsify. Leave dressing in blender until your lettuce comes off the grill. Pulse a few times to remix before drizzling over salad.

4. Heat your bbq to high. Brush each romaine heart with garlic oil. Grill each side of the romaine hearts about 10 seconds. Serve the grilled hearts with 2 Parmesan crisps and drizzle with dressing. Top with fresh ground black pepper and put a lemon wedge on the side.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!