The smoky char of the grill brings a whole new dimension to plain old Caesar salad. To develop good char and maintain crisp lettuce without ending up with scorched, wilted, even slimy leaves, we used sturdy, compact romaine hearts, which withstood the heat of the grill better than whole heads.
Halving them lengthwise and grilling on just one side gave them plenty of surface area for charring without turning limp. A hot fire meant that the heat didn’t have time to penetrate and wilt the crunchy inner leaves before the -exterior developed grill marks.
Our boldly seasoned Caesar dressing replaced the raw egg with mayonnaise. It was so good that we got the idea to brush it on the cut side of the uncooked lettuce instead of olive oil, allowing the dressing to pick up a mildly smoky flavor on the grill along with the lettuce.
For the croutons, we brushed baguette slices with olive oil, toasted them over the coals, and then rubbed them with a garlic clove. We combined the lettuce and croutons, drizzled on extra dressing, dusted everything with Parmesan, and called tasters. The salad disappeared.
With apologies to Shakespeare: It’s not that we love Caesar less, but that we love grilled Caesar more.