The first time I had a charred salad was at a local restaurant. The idea was simple enough, but I had really never thought about grilling my salad. We grill all other types of vegetables to give them a sweet charred flavor, so why not lettuce? Mind officially blown.
A NEW STAPLE FOR THE GRILL
Sure, serving a charred salad might sound like a total pain in the a** if you aren’t already grilling something else. Who wants to take the time to light a grill and cook something meant to be served raw? Plus, you really need to serve this quickly.
However, I think a perfectly reasonable cheat, would be to place your halves of romaine cut side up on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and throw them under the broiler for a few minutes until the edges are crispy. You might not get the smokey flavor from the grill, but it will definitely change the taste and texture.
GRILLED SALAD OPTIONS
Once you get the hang of grilling lettuce, you can really apply this method to a number of classic salads. Grilled romaine is a grate base for Ceasar, Ranch and other creamy dressings. I’ve never tried it with a vinaigrette, but I imagine that could work too. Enjoy!
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup whole milk (more as needed)
crumbled blue cheese such as Roquefort or Danish Blue
1 ½ tablespoons finely grated shallot
1 clove finely grated garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
2 hearts of romaine lettuce bases trimmed but left , halved lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
For the dressing: In a medium bowl, stir the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, cheese, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the flavors develop. Before using, taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. The dressing will thicken as it sits and may need to be thinned with more milk.
Prepare the salad: Once the dressing is chilled, heat a gas grill to medium low. Be sure the grate is hot too. Lightly brush olive oil over all of the romaine hearts taking care not to break the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lettuce cut side down on the grate directly over the heat. Grill until the outer leaves are charred and wilted and the lettuce is warm and just barely tender all of the way to the core (2-5 minutes depending on the heat of your grill). Transfer the lettuce to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.
To serve: Place half a heart of romaine cut side up on each plate. Top with about two tablespoons of the blue cheese dressing or more to taste and sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.