Grilled Caesar Salad
Let’s talk about thankfulness, shall we? I’m full of it. Appreciation that is. Gratitude—that’s what I got. I’m really grateful for all of you. Each and every single one of you. Yes, you. You take time out of your day to read my blog, follow my pictures and crazy antics, try out my recipes and have stuck with me through my crazy schedule, at the moment, and lack of posts. Let’s face it, anyone who can make it through all my bad jokes and puns and still come back for more is a-okay in my book. We’re actually best friends now. Get used to it. You leave comments and share stories and give me ideas and although it seems that at times (lately especially) I don’t read them, I want you to know that I do read them. All of them. I appreciate them, even the ones full of criticism. Those make my work better. Your comments are what I look forward to the most when I’m lying in bed at 2 in the morning—okay it’s more like 10 in the evening because this old man gets really tired, but it feels like 2 in the morning. It’s hard at times to respond to everyone, throughout all the social media sites and on the blog itself. I try my best though.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working a lot, helping a friend with her second cookbook, helping said friend shoot some videos (which are incredibly awesome just you wait) playing with said friend’s cat (I’m obsessed, don’t judge me) packing, moving from home and unpacking. Being an adult is crazy to me, not because I’m getting older but because it’s so much work. It’s so much hard work. How do you fellow grown-ups do it?! I remember fourteen year old me wishing I was older so I could do all sorts of things (bad things, sorry mamma!) and now that I’m about to be twenty-five I think, “Why was I in such a hurry to grow up?” If only I can talk to my fourteen year old self, I’d say “Hey young self! Don’t grow up so fast you dummy. Enjoy your stress-free, school-only life while you can! It won’t last!” I’d also tell myself that green corduroys with a green shirt and green shoes is never acceptable. Like ever. What can I say, I went through a crayon phase. Needless to say, I’ve lacked on my work on this here ol’ blog and on the newsletters. I’ve had this post sitting on my computer for weeks now and I’m finally getting around to sharing it with you. Sure summer is now officially over and grilling season is long gone, but let’s celebrate the end of summer and go out with a bang. One last hoorah for the road. Adios sun and hello orange and yellow trees and chilly breezes. Oh I live in LA, I forgot, so I guess I should say, hello year round green trees that show no season. It’s the idea of autumn that I love so much. Plus guess what, with autumn comes so many great holidays centered around food. Warm cozy sweaters, not green I promise. And tons of cups of steaming hot chocolate, topped with mounds of whipped cream and cinnamon. Always cinnamon.
A reader recently—and by recently I mean a while ago—left me a comment, asking for a caesar salad recipe. It’s a classic recipe that I don’t have on my blog so I thought I’d fulfill the request and go for it. Of course I couldn’t just give you all a plain ol’ boring salad recipe that you’ve seen 100 times before. I wanted to mix things up and make it fun. So I threw some lettuce on the grill—yeah it’s a thing now—along with a crusty baguette and tossed it all with grilled chicken and homemade Caesar dressing. BOOM we’re changing the way we look at salad.
We’re going to start by making the dressing for the salad. I know I said earlier that everything about this salad is grilled, but the dressing isn’t grilled. I’d have a hard time trying to figure out how to grill the dressing. So this isn’t grilled BUT everything else in the salad is grilled so it makes up for it, right? Lie to me.
This is just a classic caesar dressing. Nothing out of the ordinary here. We first need anchovies and garlic.
If you think you don’t like anchovies, you’re probably right. I mean they’re little fishy smelling fishes. What’s to like about it?! At the same time though, if you think you’ve never had them and have eaten Caesar salad all your life, then you’re wrong. Of course you’ve had anchovies before, silly. Classic Caesar dressing is always made with anchovies. Rest assured though, you will not be able to taste the fishy fishness of the anchovies. I promise. Add it even though you think you won’t like it. Not because I’m telling you to but because…okay it’s really because I’m telling you to.
So, let’s make a paste out of the garlic and anchovies (and a dash of salt).
Next, add in the egg yolks. Disclaimer for this. I know some people might get a little squeamish with the idea of consuming raw egg yolks. You don’t have anything to worry about. It’s not like you’re eating an entire crate of raw eggs all in one sitting. Most supermarket eggs are pasteurized anyhow, so there is no possibility of any kind of weirdness. Plus we all saw Beauty and the Beast and Gaston totally eat 4 dozen eggs raw so it’s cool.
But Jonathan, why do we have to add the egg yolks anyhow? Well, I’m glad you asked. You need the egg yolks to thicken the dressing and it also gives it a richer flavor.
In the end though, If I can’t convince you then you can leave out the egg yolks.
I’m adding them though, because I like to live on the wild side (and I think you should too. Let’s live on the wild side together!)
Add the lemon zest.
We’re also going to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a squish of dijon mustard. Squish, it’s a measurement along with plurp and bloop.
Let’s add a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper. I like to add more than a few, I like black pepper a lot. And stream in the olive oil while you’re at it too. Might as well.
The olive oil is really just for flavor. You can pulse the ingredients together and combine them all into a smooth purée. Then while the processor (or blender) is running, add the vegetable oil, in a slow steady stream.
Continue to blend until the dressing is completely incorporated and thick.
**Note: Check for seasoning, although it should be fine with salt because we added that little bit earlier. The anchovies are slightly salty and the next ingredient will add more salt to it.**
That’s right, cheese. Did someone just say cheese? I believe I did. Add a heaping amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Pulse once more to incorporate the cheese.
And that’s it, you’re done. You’ve just made your own salad dressing. If you can believe it, that was the hardest part of this recipe. It only gets easier from here. You can thank me later. Right now, let’s get back to salad making.
Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge while we get everything else ready. I don’t know about you, but I love my salad dressing cold. Plus it’ll give it a chance for the flavors to blend and develop and deepen. Or whatever it is that it does in the fridge.
We’re now going to grill a bunch of stuff.
First things first, heat up a stovetop grill over medium-high heat. It should be smokey. You want the grill very hot.
**Note: You can also do this with an outdoor grill if you’d like. Granted, you’d have to heat up the large thing and go through all the hassle of getting it ready. Or you can just use a stove top grill pan. You decide.**
Cut the romaine lettuce in half, lengthwise, keeping the root end on because that will hold the lettuce together as it cooks.
Brush the lettuce with a bit of oil so that it doesn’t stick to the grill but also so that it creates awesome grill marks on the lettuce itself.
Then place flat-side down on the hot grill.
You don’t want to wilt the lettuce completely. No one likes wilted soggy lettuce. Just grill on the first side for about 2 to 5 minutes—depending on how thick your lettuce is—or just until grill marks form.
Turn over and continue to grill for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer to the lettuce to a plate to cool.
What’s a Caesar salad without the croutons? Come to think of it, what’s any salad without croutons? I’m a sucker for bread in any way, shape, or form. I’ll take any excuse to eat it so naturally I love croutons in my salad. Well friends, we’re grilling that too.
Cut a baguette in half, lengthwise like the lettuce.
Brush the flat side, liberally, with oil. Or melted butter, if you’d prefer. I have the oil out already for the lettuce and dressing, so I just used that. But butter would be great as well.
Place the bread, flat side down, onto the hot grill. Same grill the lettuce was on. No need to clean it or anything. We’re trying to make this post be as fast and painless as possible.
Grill for about 5 to 7 minutes, pressing down every so often, or until deep charred grill marks form. Then turn over the bread and continue to grill for another 2 to 4 minutes on the second side.
Once completely grilled on both sides, you can transfer the bread to a cutting board.
While the bread is still hot from the grill, grab a large garlic clove (with the end cut off) and rub it all into the bread. Almost like you’re grating something with a microplane.
I love my crouton super crunchy. I find that the grill doesn’t really crunch up the bread as much. So I like to cut the bread into cubes (whatever size you’d like) and lay them out on a baking sheet. Pop the sheet in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. It’s dry out the bread and crunchify it for you.
While the croutons are in the oven, doing their oven magic, let’s grill the last ingredient.
This is completely optional—a tasty option, mind you—but I think it’s necessary. As you might’ve guessed by now, I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t think I could commit to something like that. I need meat. I need chicken. Sorry. You can make this vegetarian by doing everything I just did. OR you can add grilled chicken into the mix. I vote for the grilled chicken. I do I do.
I have a few chicken breasts that I made into cutlets, just by cutting them in half (like you would open a book).
We’re going to season the chicken very simply with:
Salt Pepper Garlic Powder Paprika
And let’s add a bit of oil, so that the chicken doesn’t stick to the grill.
Mush everything together with your hands and then place the chicken onto the grill. Then go wash your hands because raw chicken can cause all sorts of bacteria and diseases. Let’s be safe friends. Wash them paws with soap.
**Tip: Don’t touch the chicken once it’s on the grill. I’ve seen so many people constantly turning the chicken or picking it up and messing with it. Just leave it be. If the chicken is sticking to the grill, that means it’s not ready to turn. Once it is ready to turn, the chicken will release from the grill.**
Grill on the first side for about 5 to 7 minutes (depending on how thick your chicken is). Then turn it over and continue to grill for another 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove from the grill and transfer to a plate to allow to cool down.
**Tip: You don’t want to slice your chicken as soon as it comes off the grill because that’ll cause the juices to come out and the chicken with dry up. It needs to rest for at least 5 minutes.**
In the meantime back at the ranch (but not really because I don’t live on a ranch) we are ready to start assembling our salad.
Cut off the root ends of the lettuce, and then cut into large salad-sized pieces, throw it into a large salad bowl. Add the croutons. Slice the cooled chicken into thin pieces, and add it to the salad.
Cheese please. I don’t like to add grated cheese to the salad because I think it messes with the texture of everything. So what I like to do is take a vegetable peeler and peel large ribbons of parmesan cheese. I’ll add that to the salad instead.
Drizzle in as much dressing as you’d like and then give it all a toss.
You can make this salad without grilling the lettuce and croutons if you’d like. Maybe you don’t have a grill pan so you can’t grill it. Perhaps you don’t feel like going through the extra time of grilling and cooling. I don’t know your life story. Whatever the case might be, you can just cut up the fresh lettuce and use that instead. You can toast the croutons fully in the oven. You don’t have to add grilled chicken.
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easy enough to adapt and it’s really simple to make. So if your time is limited during the week, you can whip this up as a quick side. You can even make the dressing up to 3 days ahead and have it in the fridge for whenever you need to use it.
Grilled Caesar Salad
We’re taking a classic salad recipe and turning it into a end-of-summer-grilled-treat-recipe. A slight grill to the lettuce, the charred marks on the croutons and the added bonus of grilled chicken, make this salad irresistible. The easy homemade dressing helps too. So let’s celebrate the end of summer with one last grilling hooray!
yield: 4 to 6 servings
For the dressing:
- 6 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
For the salad:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large heads of romaine lettuce
- 1 baguette (day old)
- 1 garlic cloves
- 4 chicken breast cutlets
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- shaved parmesan for topping
1. In a blender or food processor, pulse the anchovies, garlic cloves and salt until it forms somewhat of a paste. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, black pepper, and olive oil; blend until completely incorporated. While the blender or food processor is running, slowly stream in the vegetable oil, blending until the dressing is pale and thick. Mix in the parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning, adding salt or pepper accordingly. Transfer to a container or bowl and store in the fridge, covered until ready to use. Can be made 3 days in advance.
2. Preheat a stovetop grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the romaine lettuce in half, lengthwise, keeping the root end in tact to keep the lettuce together while it grills. Brush the lettuce with oil, to prevent it from sticking to the grill. Place the lettuce on the preheated grill, cut side down, and cook for about 2 to 5 minutes, or until grill marks form. Flip over and continue to grill for another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.
3. Cut the baguette in half, lengthwise, and brush with oil. Place the bread on hot grill, cut side down, and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until grill marks form. Flip over and continue to grill for another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. While the bread is still warm, rub the charred cut side, with the garlic clove, grating it into the bread nooks and crannies. Cut into a medium dice and arrange on a baking sheet. Place in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
4. Place the chicken cutlets into a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir until evenly incorporated. Place chicken onto hot grill, in one even layer. Grill for about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip over and continue to cook on second side for another 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into thin pieces.
5. Cut the lettuce into small strips and toss into a large mixing bowl. Add the croutons, sliced chicken, shaved parmesan and a bit of the dressing, or as much as you’d like. Toss to evenly combine and serve right away. Enjoy!