This salad could be made on a sunny summer day – imagine sitting next to the grill, enjoying the weather, sipping rosé. That does sound nice. But consider making this on a wintery night when citrus is at it’s most alluring. Steak cooks fast, and you’ll stay warm next to that roaring Weber. This is one of my favorite salads – so many important flavors on one plate. Sweet oranges, crisp lettuce, fatty steak, funky blue cheese, crunchy fried shallots, and bright mint are brillant collaborators.
For the Salad
boneless steak (such as NY Strip)
blue cheese, crumbled
shallots (including 1 for learning) or 1.5 C store-bought fried shallots
neutral oil for frying shallots (canola, vegetable, or peanut)
head Romaine lettuce
oranges (a combination of navel, blood, and cara cara oranges make a very pretty salad)
Shallots can be bought already fried at asian groceries. They're not as good, but frying shallots is time consuming. If you decide to fry them yourself, it can be done up to a day in advance - just seal the fried shallots in an airtight container until you're ready to use them.
Slice the shallots as thinly as possible (1/8 of an inch is perfect).
Preheat the oil in a heavy saucepan or skillet. It's ready for frying when it's shimmering. Drop one slice of shallot into the oil as a test - it should rise to the top of the oil with a burst of bubbles. Now it's just right.
Fry the shallots in batches. If the pan is too crowded, your shallots, they will be soggy. Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon when they just begin to turn golden. Place them on a paper towel-lined plate. They will continue to cook a bit out of the oil. After each batch give the oil a moment to reheat. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
The fried shallots can be kept in an airtight container for a day – placing a paper towel in the container will help them stay crisp.
For the steaks:
Prepare the grill. You'll need to sear the steaks on high heat. If you're using charcoal, the coals should be completely white, glowing red. When you can't hold your hand two inches over the grill grate for more than a second without feeling pain, that's just right. Generously salt and pepper the steaks and leave them out so they don't go onto the grill cold. This way they will cook more evenly.
For the salad:
Now you have a choice to make. Will you cut the oranges into supremes – the slightly more laborious but glamorous option? Or will you peel the oranges and slice them into disks – a simpler presentation, no less delicious. If you choose the latter, you know what to do. If you want to make supremes, here’s how…
Peel the oranges with a very sharp paring knife, removing the white, bitter pith. Holding the orange above a bowl, use the knife to cut each segment away from it’s skin. You'll have a naked orange segment - like those mandarin oranges that come in fruit cocktail! The bowl will collect orange juice that you can use for the dressing.
Wash, dry and tear the lettuce. Crumble the blue cheese.
For the dressing:
In a small bowl combine the citrus juice and salt. Stir to dissolve the salt. Whisk in the olive oil, then add the chopped herbs.
Assemble the salad in a large bowl or on a platter. First the lettuce, then the citrus and steak, sprinkle on the cheese and the shallots, then drizzle the dressing over the whole shebang.