Bringing Fancy Salad Back: The Canlis Salad

Sunday, March 6, 2011

For Valentine's Day this year The Hubsters took me out to a fabulous restaurant here in Seattle called Canlis. It's one of those Old School restaurants with a modern feel, in that the devotion to not great but excellent service is most prized while housed in a sleek and minimalistic Pacific Northwest-inspired aesthetic. Sitting atop a hill overlooking the greater Sound below, you are greeted by a huge roaring stone fireplace and promptly seated by friendly staff. The term "reservation" never applied more to a place, as Canlis has earned its popularity through good ol' fashioned great work and competent staff. You can choose from among the classic Pacific Northwest dishes like fresh oysters and grilled salmon, or venture into the Chef's more modern plates like halibut with white miso and baby bok choy. But regardless if you're eating modern or classic Canlis, the restaurant's famous salad is a must.

Using bold savory flavors like bacon, garlic, and romano cheese, it's a hefty salad that is both surprisingly refreshing (by way of mint! yes!!!) and satisfying without destroying your appetite for the main courses. I long for these "classic" salads: cold crisp lettuce with a garlic-based vinaigrette, a little tomato and maybe some bacon and fresh classic herbs like parsley and mint. Whatever happened to parsley and mint? Oh ya, cilantro took over! This salad is very easy to make, especially with my substitutions. The restaurant uses coddle egg -- do it but you can achieve the same emulsifying effect with even more flavor by using a little Dijon mustard like I did. And I used a parsley-mint combination because I love them both. Enjoy!

The Canlis Salad
1 large head Romaine hearts, cut into 1" pieces (Wash individual leaves in warm water, drain and dry in colander then chill in refrigerator. Don't ever, ever toss a Canlis Salad with warm or wet leaves!!)
8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup very well done chopped bacon
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh mint*
1 tablespoon thinly sliced oregano leaves
1/2 cup croutons*
kosher salt and fresh ground tellicherry black pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground tellicherry black pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 coddled egg*

[Ingredient notes:
Mint - you can't use too much mint (experiment yourself)
Coddled Egg - Pour boiling water into a cup and put a whole egg (in the shell) into the hot water , let sit for 1 minute. You may substitute with pasteurized egg mixture (found in the dairy section in cartons).
Croutons - We make our own croutons. Butter and Italian seasoning.]

To make the dressing, put the salt and pepper, lemon juice, oil, and coddled egg in a bowl and whip vigorously, then reserve. To a salad bowl add the prepared Romaine, green onion, cheese, bacon, oregano, and mint. Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly. Split the salad on to four chilled plates and arrange croutons, a sprinkle of Romano cheese and halved cherry tomatoes on the salad to finish the presentation.

My Notes:
Instead of the egg business, use 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard in the vinaigrette -- this will emulsify it for you and give a nice added flavor as well. If using Dijon, go easier on the lemon juice as the mustard has acid in it as well and you want to retain the balance.

You can obviously use just black peppercorns, but make it freshly ground! Makes all the difference in the world! And keep it on a courser grate if you can!

This sounds terrible but in a pinch, use your favorite box of croutons. To make your own VERY quickly, simply cube white bread (such as Italian or French works the best) and heat a good amount of olive oil and butter in a saute pan -- for 1 cup of cubed bread I'd use 4 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp butter. A little salt and pepper and coat the bread in the oil/butter. Cook until golden brown and the bread has soaked up all the liquid and gets toasted right in the pan. Conversely, you can toss the bread in the oil with some salt and pepper in a bowl, then spread out on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until same golden color and crispiness is achieved. But I like pan-toasting because I can add the butter for more flavor!

I used a combo of mint and parsley because I like mint and parsley. But you don't have to.

I also wanted the "egg" element so I added a chopped boiled egg as well.

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