Serves 4 as a first course
This is nothing more than romaine leaves with a piquant and creamy romaine dressing that can be served as a salad or wrapped in rice paper as a finger food. Of all lettuces, romaine has the nicest combination of delicacy yet robust crunchy greenness. For most of us, our acquaintance begins and ends with Caesar salad. That also means we never experience romaine's abundant fresh green taste without an overwhelming amount of garlic. This recipe incorporates a dipping sauce made from a puree of the outer green leaves, combined with our Shallot Dressing, and tossed with slivered romaine ribs. The result is a crisp, intense dressing. Wrap the remaining leaves in rice paper, for dunking in the dressing.
HINT: You will need a large head of romaine. The large deep green outside leaves are an important part of the recipe.
For serving, the smaller inner leaves are wrapped in rice paper rounds, found on the shelves of Asian markets and in some grocery stores. Dried paper-thin sheets that must be softened before using, they are sometimes called spring roll wrappers, because they are used for Vietnamese spring rolls, but they bear no resemblance to the Chinese spring roll wrappers we use for Cremini Cigars (page 601 of the book) and Trotter Spring Rolls (page 218).
Pull off the large outside leaves from the romaine and reserve. Separate the smaller leaves. Wash all the leaves if necessary and dry thoroughly. Divide the smaller leaves into 4 equal portions, and set aside.
Cut out the ribs of the larger leaves and cut them into 1/4-inch pieces. Cut enough of the dark green leaves into 2-inch pieces to yield 1 cup. In a blender, combine the shallot dressing, the dark green romaine leaves, and the olive oil. Blend until thoroughly combined. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the vinegar and honey. Season to taste with Tabasco, salt, and pepper.
One at a time, place each rice paper wrapper between two damp towels for 3 to 4 minutes to soften. Cut the papers in half. Lay out a half round on the work surface, with the straight edge away from you. Arrange one of the portions of romaine in a little pile about 3 inches from the right edge of the paper, letting the tips of the leaves extend over the straight edge. Fold the bottom up over the greens, then fold the right side over the greens and roll the lettuce up in the wrapper. Continue with the remaining rice paper and romaine, then stand the wraps up on a platter. Just before serving, fold as many of the cut ribs as desired into the dressing. They will add texture, much as crumbled blue cheese does in a creamy blue cheese dressing. Serve on the side for dipping.
Makes about 3/4 cup
Any time you might think of using ranch dressing, try this instead. It is tangy, creamy, and intense. You can blend it completely to super smoothness or leave some texture. I use it for almost anything except dessert.
Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse to blend, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary. Leave a bit of texture to the mixture, or blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Happy in the Kitchen
The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating
by Michel Richard
with Susie Heller and Peter Kaminsky
Foreword by Thomas Keller
352 pages; 225 color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created October 2006
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