Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My new favorite thing: grilled lettuce

Last week, I enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the Gamekeeper. The restaurant is known as one of the better ones around here -- I am not sure why it took us four years to get there! I couldn't decide on just one first course, so ordered two dishes to share. The first was a Country Ham Paté -- baked country ham paté on toast with pecan smoked trout, wilted baby arugula, horseradish sour cream and trout caviar (these descriptions are all from the menu). Very yummy and a lot of food. Sharing it with each other and with our friends A and L was a good idea. Then we ordered the Warm Escarole Salad and I discovered my new favorite thing -- grilled lettuce. The warm salad was composed of grilled escarole with applewood smoked bacon, organic shaved egg, reggiano, pine nuts, dried cranberries, seniora de vizcantar extra virgin olive oil, and a forty year sherry and balsamic reduction. It was divine. I may go back for lunch one day soon and just eat this salad.

For my entree, I ordered the much recommended Ostrich, a spice rubbed ostrich fan filet from hilltop farms in Forsyth county, grilled medium-rare, with roasted garlic risotto and sun-dried tomato jus. I had never eaten ostrich before, but I will definitely eat it again at the Gamekeeper. It was perfectly cooked. My only complaint is that I would have liked a little more of the roasted garlic risotto.

I couldn't wait to start looking at recipes for grilled lettuce salads. I had seen some before, and always thought that grilled lettuce sounded weird. Wrong! It gives it a deeper, nutty flavor that is soooo good. I found a couple of recipes that I am planning to try over the next few weeks. I had a piece of a beef tenderloin in the freezer that needed to get eaten, so this is our first try:

Grilled Beef Tenderloin & Romaine

* 1 cup grape tomatoes
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
* 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 2 large heads romaine lettuce, outermost leaves removed
* 1 pound beef tenderloin


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Place tomatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon Parmesan, vinegar, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor; puree. Set aside. 
  3. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and garlic in another small bowl.
  4. Leaving the root ends intact, cut romaine heads into quarters (the root will keep the leaves from falling apart); brush the cut sides with the garlic-oil mixture and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Season both sides of steak with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Clean the grill thoroughly and oil the grill rack. Grill the romaine, turning occasionally, until the inner leaves have softened and the outer leaves have begun to char, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board to cool. Grill the tenderloin, turning once, until desired doneness (125 degrees for medium rare).  Set aside for 5 minutes before carving.
  6. Cut the root ends off the romaine and discard. Chop the leaves into bite-size pieces. 
  7. Serve the steak and grilled greens drizzled with the reserved tomato vinaigrette and topped with the remaining Parmesan.

The recipe originally called for escarole, but I substituted romaine because it is kid-friendlier. To feed four people I would probably grill three heads next time. I loved the salad and thought it went really well with the beef. B was not a fan, but W enjoyed his salad. Both boys were quite impressed with the beef but what is not to love about perfectly cooked beef tenderloin?

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