Friday, November 18, 2011

Grilled Romaine with a Soft Boiled Egg

Lettuce?  Grilled?  Hot?  You may be skeptical.  Maybe even afraid.  But fear not, your world may change forever.

For something that you're so used to having only one way, at only one temperature, with only one texture, it can be scary to do something different with it.  But let me tell you that although high heat and a crisp, fresh head of lettuce seem to be instinctively incompatable, they create something on your plate that is texturally and flavorfully delectable.  

This dish shines with simplicity, and has a list of ingredients that you can count on one hand;  romaine lettuce, an egg, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil (salt and pepper too...but these are mainstay seasonings, not ingredients).  And with recipes as simple as this, the quality of each ingredient is tremendously important.  

Use a fresh, sturdy head of lettuce, and fresh eggs.  Buy a piece of parmesan cut from a certified wheel of parmesan cheese from Parma, Italy, from your local store's cheesemonger (dear god, not from the green can please).  And for the olive oil - the one you are drizzling on top with the lemon juice - make it extra virgin;  one that actually contains flavor profiles of earthiness and hints of fruit, that finishes with a bite of pepper in the back of your throat.  If you have never tried an olive oil like this before, please do.  It will change your view of what olive oil actually can, and should, taste like.  

From the seared, caramelized marks on the outer leaves, to the steamed, leafy center, to the nutty salty parmesan, the richness and natural sauce of the egg yolk,  the grassiness of the olive oil, and the brightness of the lemon, your taste buds will be blown away with every bite, all the way from the first bite until the last (or until you're licking your plate....not that I'm speaking from experience).  

In fact, get a good loaf of crusty bread to take care of that.  All together you'll have a full and satisfying meal that beats a regular old chopped romaine salad any day.  

Grilled Romaine with a Soft Boiled Egg 


1 head of Romaine Lettuce (Romaine Hearts work best for this since they are sturdier and not as 'leafy' as regular romaine.  It helps maintain texture and structure against the high heat of the grill or skillet)
1 egg, soft boiled (instructions below)
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
1-2 tablespoons quality Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon other oil; either canola, vegetable, or other less-flavorful and high-heat tolerant oil
Juice of a quarter to half of a lemon


Start your method for preparing your soft boiled egg(s) as described below.

In the meantime, heat a grill, grill pan, or saute pan over medium high heat.  Rub the Romaine heart with the high-heat tolerant oil and season all around with salt and pepper.  Have your grated cheese, lemon wedge, and extra virgin olive oil ready next to your plate to assemble the dish easily once the other components are ready.

Once your egg is done cooking in the water, drain the hot water and let the egg sit in cold water to cool down.  Now put your romaine heart on the heat, rotating it with tongs to sear it on all sides.  Remove the lettuce when it has slightly wilted but still holds shape when you pick it up - about 1-2 minutes.

Remove the lettuce to your plate and sprinkle with a generous snowfall of freshly grated parmesan, big squeeze of lemon juice, and healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Peel your soft boiled egg and place it on top, repeating with another layer of cheese, lemon, oil, s&p.

Break the yolk with your fork.  Cut your first bite of wilted-yet-still-crunchy-and-caramelized lettuce, swirl it within the river of cheesy, yolky, olive-oily, lemony heaven, and taste the salad revolution you've been waiting for.  Repeat.

Soft Boiled Eggs

Heat water with a pinch of salt in a saucepot over medium high heat (the right size pot and amount of water for the number of eggs you are cooking to be fully submerged in the water once placed inside.)

Once the water just barely begins to show signs of boiling - beyond a simmer but not at a rolling boil - gently place the egg(s) inside the water, using a spoon to lower them to the bottom of the pan.

Let the eggs cook for 5-6 minutes while never letting the water come to a rolling boil.  Exact timing will depend on elevation, which takes a bit longer the higher up you are, and on desired doneness of the yolk.   It takes a few rounds of cooking soft boiled eggs to learn your stovetop and your water temperatures and your eggs to know your exact rules to make your own perfect soft boiled egg.

Drain the hot water and run cool water over the cooked eggs.  Gently peel off the shells and devour.  Dont forget a sprinkle of salt and pepper on top.

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