Yep, you read that right. Grilled Caesar Salad with Shrimp. Not Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. I’m grilling the entire doggone salad. My dear friends, Kim and Jon, were roasting romaine lettuce one night for dinner a part of Whole 30 diet. I chuckled at how crazy that sounded, but then I began to think…”What would that taste like in a salad?” Since I’m on that new health-kick I told you about last week; I figured, I should do a Whole 30 dish, too! But, I’m going to add cheese…and croutons. Mainly because I have no willpower.
One thing I speak of frequently when I’m teaching people how to cook is doing things for yourself. In culinary school, prospective chefs have to take a course called Food Production. The goal of that course was to teach us how to break down a food product- from a side of beef to a pineapple, and everything in between. The Food Production course was one of my favorite classes, mainly because I was allowed to work with knives. I also enjoyed it because it taught me something I carry with me to this day: how to save money in order to buy more shoes.
Since this food blog is all about teaching you, my dearest, about how to cook like a chef; guess what you’ll be learning to do today? Yep, breaking down a lil’ bitty shrimp. Hopefully your gag reflex is strong because it may get a bit hairy. I know you’re a boss, though, and you’re going to rock this out. This grilled Caesar salad won’t make itself, though, so let’s get this part over with.
Why do I recommend buying shrimp whole? Because of cost. I made it a point to check out the prices of the same shrimp in its different stages of processing. The head-on, shell-on Argentinian shrimp that I’m using here cost $5.67 a pound. It’s headless counterpart? $7.67 a pound. It’s headless, skinless, and cooked version? A whopping $10.67 a pound!! Seriously. Five bucks more for the same shrimp? Not today, Satan. Not today.
Yes, it can get messy, but so does life. Think of this as therapy. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a few people come to mind who’s head I wouldn’t mind ripping off and whose insides I’d like to eviscerate. Whoa! Did I say that out loud?
Goriness aside, it’s not a terribly difficult process, it just adds a few minutes to the overall recipe time. Not only will you save yourself a handful of bucks, you’ll also end up with the beginnings of a dope fumet (fish stock). The head of the shrimp will snap off right where the little, teeny (ambulatory) legs end and the bigger legs (pleopods) begin. Set them in your bag for stock or discard.
Now, take your thumb and grip the underside of the shell where the legs are. Pushing up and around the body of the shrimp, peel off the shell in one, or two, sections. Place those into the fumet bag or discard. Now comes the yucky part.
You see that little black line running down the back of your shrimp? Well, my friend, that’s poo. The digestive system of the shrimp, really, but it’s poop all the same. Every time you’ve eaten shrimp with that black line, you’ve eaten it. Have you died because you ate it? Obviously not, or you wouldn’t be reading this and getting grossed out. Do you want to continue eating shrimp poo? Again, probably not. So, you can do one of two things: buy your shrimp already peeled and deveined, or devein them yourself. Guess which economical option I’m going with?
Deveining shrimp is easy, it’s just messy. Grab a large bowl of cold water for rinsing the shrimp. Then, grab another empty bowl for holding the cleaned shrimp. Using the tip of a very sharp knife, run the blade down the length of the shrimp’s back.
Separate the incision a little bit by pulling the flesh with your fingers. Grab the top part of the poop-chute (I’m sorry, but it’s so funny to write that) and gently pull it up and away from the flesh.
Definitely discard this, there ain’t nothing good that will come of it. Again, if you have no issues with consuming this (it isn’t harmful), then skip this part altogether. Aesthetically, it drives me crazy to see, so I always take the time to get rid of it. Now, that we’ve cleaned out the shrimp, we need to rinse them well, then dry them with paper towels. Set them on a plate and set it to the side because the rest of the grilled Caesar salad will come together quickly.
Unless they’re allergic, most people are unaware that Caesar salad contains anchovies. I read somewhere that the original recipe didn’t have the briny little fishies, but instead, used Worcestershire Sauce. That contains anchovies, so either way you slice it, you’re going to ingest fish. Unless you’re like me in this instance. I don’t keep anchovies on hand, and I’m not about to run out to the store and try to hunt any down when I have a perfectly acceptable substitute. This comes in the form of shrimp sauce (or paste).
I keep this stuff on hand because I’m a huge fan of Southeast Asian dishes. If you don’t have any, just substitute Worcestershire Sauce or buy the anchovies. You need to use either/or because, without them, your Caesar salad won’t taste the same.
I start out my dressing by placing my bowl on to a damp paper towel. This is to prevent the bowl from spinning out of control while I whisk my ingredients. Throw in your garlic, shrimp paste, and your raw eggs yolks.
I know, I know; raw egg yolks are a hump most people can’t get over. The only advice I can give you is to use organic, free range eggs from a reputable company. My go-to egg provider is Vital Farms. Not only do they treat their chickens right, they treat their employees right too. And their packaging is cute. That’s important. You can’t get around using the eggs anymore than you can get around using the anchovies for this dressing. The eggs act as the emulsifier which creates the silky smooth dressing you want. If you have an allergy or a compromised immune system, your best bet is to omit them.
Add the lemon juice to your egg mixture, followed by the Worcestershire sauce, and the dijon and whisk well.
Now comes the fun part: slowly drizzling in the olive oil while whisking vigorously to begin creating the emulsion.
The final addition of the vegetable oil, and further frantic whisking will leave you with an almost cloud-like, ribbony dressing. Sprinkle in a handful of finely grated parmesan cheese, and divide into two equal portions.
Toss your shrimp into one half of the dressing and allow to marinate, in the refrigerator, for no longer than twenty minutes.
Now for the final step of the grilled Caesar salad.
I would’ve never thought that romaine lettuce would be good grilled. That was until I tried it. Talk about a mind bomb. The charred leaves are almost chip-like in consistency and they make the perfect base for a grilled Caesar salad, or any salad for that matter. And it’s soooooo easy to prepare!
Lay out your halved hearts of romaine. Brush some olive oil onto the cut side, then sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over them. That really is all you have to do to prep them.
We’re going to grill the marinated shrimp and the romaine at the same time. Begin first with the shrimp, followed by the romaine. Shrimp only takes about 7 minutes to grill perfectly. Turn halfway through that time, to cook evenly on both sides, then remove them. They will continue to cook as a result of carry-over cooking so you don’t want to grill them too long. For the romaine, just grill them over medium heat until they have grill marks and are slightly charred. That could take anywhere from 5-7 minutes. Remove them from the grill and allow to cool before chopping. Too easy.
Toss the chopped romaine, in a large bowl, with the remaining portion of dressing. Portion onto your plate and top with your grilled shrimp, a healthy sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some croutons.
What could be more healthy-ish than a grilled Caesar salad? Nothing, is what. No one could’ve talked me into believing that a grilled salad would be worth the time and the effort, but after tasting this, I’m more than convinced. I know you’ll be as well, so pin this for later and share with your friends.
Grilled Caesar Salad with Shrimp
Yield 4 servings
Grilling both the shrimp and the romaine lettuce make this a topnotch midday meal.
1 tbsp shrimp paste or 5 anchovy fillets (crushed into a paste)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 egg yolks
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (WS)
1/2 + 1 tbsp cup olive oil, separated
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, separated
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs, peeled and deveined large or jumbo shrimp
3 hearts of romaine, rinsed and halved lengthwise
croutons, for garnish
- Place a large mixing bowl on a damp paper towel to prevent it from moving. Whisk together the shrimp paste (or anchovy paste), garlic, and egg yolks until smooth. Add the lemon juice, mustard and WS.
- Pour the 1/2 cup of olive oil into the bowl in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to begin forming the emulsion. Add the vegetable oil in the same manner. Whisk constantly until your dressing leaves ribbon-like marks in itself.
- Whisk in a 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide into two equal portions. Refrigerate one portion for later.
- Toss the shrimp in the other portion to coat thoroughly. Allow the shrimp to marinate in the Cesar dressing for no more than 20 minutes.
- Preheat your grill to medium heat (300°F).
- Brush the romaine lettuce halves with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Drain the shrimp and grill, along with the lettuce (on the other side of the grill) for 7 minutes. Turn the shrimp once halfway through cooking. Don't turn the lettuce unless it begins to char too much. Remove both from the grill and allow to cool.
- Chop the romaine into large pieces (about 1"). Toss with the remaining dressing and plate. Top with the shrimp, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and croutons, if desired. Enjoy!