This dressing is just one step removed from a lemon aioli. Rich, creamy, with just enough lemon and herbiness from the lemongrass, the dressing balances the strong charred flavor of the grilled romaine.
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons white Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons total
1 teaspoon lemongrass essence (see preparation below)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup hot water
Prepare the lemongrass essence:
5 stalks fresh lemongrass (will yield about 1 tablespoon of essence)
Preheat oven to 200° F. Thinly slice the white bulb and light green part of each lemongrass stalk, just to the point where the leaves begin to separate on the stalk. Discard the tough upper leaves. Place the cut pieces on a baking sheet, and allow to completely dry in the oven, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dried lemongrass to a blender or spice grinder and process at high speed for several minutes until the dried lemongrass is pulverized to a fine powder. Let the mixture settle before removing lid.
Pour the essence into a fine sieve and gently press the essence through to a dry container with a dry pastry brush or the back of a wooden spoon. Return any remaining coarse parts to the blender or spice grinder and process again. Repeat the sieving process. This time discard any coarse bits remaining.
Place in an airtight container.
Prepare the dressing:
Combine the garlic and parmesan in a blender. Process just to combine. Add vinegar, Worcestershire, Dijon , lemon juice, lemongrass and lemongrass essence and process for about 20 seconds. Scrape down sides. Process about 10 more seconds. With the blender running, add the water and the olive oil in a slow, continuous stream.
Prepare the romaine:
Preheat a grill on high. Set grill up for direct cooking and oil the cooking grates. Reduce heat to medium.
Slice heads of romaine lengthwise. With a pastry brush, lightly brush each flat side of the romaine with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place each romaine half onto the grill, oiled side down and grill for about 30 seconds, until leaves are just seared and beginning to wilt. Remove to serving plates. Dress with creamy lemongrass dressing. Serve immediately.
[Chef’s Note: To build out the subtle lemongrass flavor, I recommend infusing the hot water (used to emulsify the dressing) with lemongrass.]
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves peeled and stalk coarsely chopped
½ cup water
Place the water in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, add lemongrass and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool about 5 minutes before using in recipe.
Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Desfor