By Jamie | October 8th, 2011
I spent the better part of last week in New Orleans for RubyConf. I have to confess, before I left for the Crescent City I had little hope of a great time. My memory of the place was darkened by the broken windows and street smells I’d experienced a few years back when Vance and I went for a wedding, not to mention the restaurant we ended up at, where mice flitted openly across the floor, scavenging for scraps.
I boarded the flight to NOLA this time with a single culinary goal: eat a pile of beignets from Cafe Du Monde. I came home having “accomplished” much more than a check-in at the legendary coffee stand — we ate like kings at some brilliant restaurants in the French Quarter (no mice in sight).
Emeril’s Delmonico served up a memorable Banana’s Foster; the “Trotter Jennings” at Cochon (Smooth Ambler Vodka, Adrian Adami Prosecco, St. Germain, lemon juice) was a happy punch in the face; Cafe Amelie had a patio that could have come straight out of a Renoir painting; Mr. B’s had a Crawfish “ravioli” that was too good to stop me from over-eating; and naturally there are a few restaurants whose names I’ve already forgotten but whose fried goat cheese salad is the stuff of dreams.
By the time I stepped off the plane at RDU Sunday night, I was ready for a week of straight up salad. This recipe is one I swore I’d try to repeat after the first time I tried it at Fifi’s (a now-defunct Orlando restaurant that was a real neighborhood gem while it lasted). Two things that normally don’t go together — lettuce and a hot grill — marry up in this unconventional blue cheese salad. Try it alongside a bowl of soup or with some crusty bread.
Grilled Romaine, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
This mayonnaise-free blue cheese dressing is lighter and tangier than the traditional version, which makes it a great appetizer. Serves 2 as a light lunch or 4 as a first course.
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed and left whole
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, mixed colors if you can find them
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for greasing the grill
- 3 thick slices smoked organic bacon, cut into lardons
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 scallion
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice the tomatoes in half. Toss with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, cut side up. Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes.
Cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.
Whisk together 1/2 tablespoon hot bacon fat, sour cream, milk, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in scallion and 1/3 cup blue cheese. Thin with additional milk if desired.
Light a grill or heat a grill pan over medium heat. Cut the washed heads of romaine straight down the middle, starting at the stem end. Brush the grill or grill pan with a good coating of olive oil. Place the cut halves of romaine, cut side down, onto the grill and grill for 1-2 minutes, until char marks have appeared but the lettuce isn’t terribly wilted.
Transfer the lettuce to plates to serve, dividing the roasted tomatoes, bacon, dressing, and additional crumbled blue cheese evenly over the top. Serve immediately.