Salads are a lot more complicated these days, at least compared to when I was a kid. I love microgreens and sprouted seeds just as much as the next girl, but I’m not always in the mood to massage my kale after a long day at work. So it’s something close to glee I feel when I hear a chef—in this case, a MasterChef—say out loud that he likes iceberg lettuce. And that it has great flavor. That kind of message validates a huge slice of my childhood, especially when you add in the bacon part, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Iceberg was maybe the only lettuce my mother ever served. She knew that if she pulled those leaves apart and sprinkled them with a bit of chopped onion and some canned olives, we kids would actually eat “salad” with dinner. I loved the cold crunchiness of it and later on, when I first lived on my own, I loved the way it lasted forever in the fridge (a food coup for any non-cooking college student learning how to manage groceries).
I mentioned bacon a moment ago. I’m not sure why my mother never thought to combine the two, since she added bacon to pretty much everything else. It’s the blue cheese that would have been the wild card back then, but it’s one ingredient I’m sure to have on hand. My pantry may look a bit different than hers did, but our goals are much the same: getting food on the table that everyone will love. Which is (match made in heaven) Graham Elliot’s goal with all 100 recipes in Cooking Like a Master Chef. As Elliot says, “It’s nothing fancier or more complex than that.”
When you put some lettuce underneath bacon and blue cheese, it’s easier to rationalize eating those two rascals. And while arugula and field greens are more trendy, I like iceberg lettuce. It has great flavor and is super crisp, and deserves more love than being relegated to the space between the burger and the bun.
— Graham Elliot, Cooking Like a Master Chef
Cooking Like a Master Chef
100 Recipes to Make the Everyday Extraordinary
Graham Elliot with Mary Goodbody, Foreword by Gordon Ramsey
Photographs by Anthony Tahlier
- 2 heads iceberg lettuce, outer leaves removed if necessary
- 8 ounces unsliced smoked bacon
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)
- Leaves from 2 sprigs tarragon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Roma (plum) tomatoes or other ripe tomatoes, very thinly sliced Freshly cracked black pepper
- Quarter the heads of lettuce from stem to tip.
- Chop the bacon into 1-inch square pieces and sauté in a skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, lift he bacon from the skillet and set aside on paper towels to cool and crisp up. Discard the fat.
- In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, ¼ cup of the cheese, and the tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
- Put 2 lettuce wedges on each of four salad plates. Arrange the tomato slices around the lettuce and scatter the bacon pieces over the lettuce and tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce and tomatoes. Finish with cracked black pepper and the remaining ¼ cup cheese.