Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Date Night Salad


Before you read this recipe and think to yourself, justifiably, “What is it with this lady and onions?,” let me tell you a story.

Twenty years and a few months ago, when I was graduating from high school, I was interviewed by the even smaller cousin of the small-town daily newspaper.  I think this tiny one was called The Flatwoods Times or something like that, but I can’t be sure, and (from what I can discern through a cursory Google search) it no longer exists.  I seem to recall that it was published every two weeks on Tuesday, and, no, that’s not a joke. In any case, the now-defunct Flatwoods newspaper published short interviews with the top 10 graduates in the Russell High School class of 1994, and I was graduating fifth…I think. (Mom? Dad?)  Yes, I think it was fifth, behind the three boys tied for valedictorian and someone else.  In any case, regardless of the particulars, this grand event occasioned my interview with the Flatwoods newspaper.  I think it took place in the office of the high school counselor…I seem to remember a laminate tabletop and a rolling chair.  As you can no doubt tell, my brain power has dimmed somewhat over the last twenty years, and this particular memory carries no particular weight for me anyway.  But what I do remember–and this is the point toward which I have been winding all along–is that I told the interviewer that one of my life’s ambitions was to publish a cookbook called “101 Varieties of Rice Krispies Treats.”

I have two things to say in my defense:

1. I was 18, and my appetite for all things sweet and buttery was as big as the sky …despite the fact that I weighed at least 10 pounds less in those days.

2. Rice Krispies treats are delicious.  As everyone knows.

That said, I don’t really make them anymore.  Maybe once a year, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I invite the kids to come “help” me make a batch–a process which involves nothing more than unwrapping a stick of butter and tearing open a package of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  (By the way, the next time I have a hankering for RKTs, I’m totally going to try Smitten Kitchen’s grown-up version, loaded with browned butter and sprinkled with sea salt.) But, basically, I’m over them.

If The Flatwoods Times resurrected itself to do a 20-year anniversary issue, following up with the 1994 graduating class of Russell High School, I’d have a new cookbook in mind: “101 Ways to Elevate the Humble Onion.”

My point is this: Yes, I do seem to be strangely fixated on onions, but, given where I started out twenty years ago, fixated on a “recipe” made up of boxed cereal and bagged marshmallows, I think I’ve come a long way.  This, my friends, is progress.

So don’t give up on me yet.  I’m going places.  Very slowly.

Last Saturday’s date night meal was one of many stops along the circuitous way, but it was a tasty one.  It’s a salad, which may not sound very manly, but it’s what my hunky hubby requested, and I try to keep him happy because I don’t want him to wander off. In any case, the medium-rare steak on top ups the testosterone factor, and the fried onions transform a dish you might see on the Applebee’s menu (boring!) into something you would definitely not see there.  They make it into something that might appear in my dream cookbook and something that will certainly appear again on my Saturday night table.

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1 lean ribeye

1-2 tablespoons of your favorite seasoning blend (I like Penzey’s Cajun spice)

1 drizzle of olive oil

1/2 fat lime’s juice

1 tablespoon of butter

3-4 medium onions (no need for fancy ones–just the regular peely yellow guys in the mesh bag will work fine), peeled and very thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

a generous pinch of salt

Fancy nuts (praline pecans, caramel almonds, chipotle-honey almonds–anything you like)

1/2 cup blue cheese or feta

Cherry tomatoes if they are in season or dried fruit like cranberries or cherries

2 romaine hearts

Your favorite Caesar dressing, as much as you like, but I’d recommend dressing the salad lightly

1. An hour or so before you want to grill your steak, take it out of the fridge.  Rub it all over with your seasoning blend and a drizzle of oil, if you are using a lean piece of meat.  (I’d rather use a lean piece and then add in some extra fat in the form of oil and butter because I don’t like eating hunks of fat and I also don’t like having to trim the cooked meat until there’s nothing left.  But that’s just me.  If you’re a lifelong carnivore who likes a mouthful of animal fat, roll with that.) Let it rest at room temperature, covered.

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2. At about the same time, heat up your oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat.  This will seem like too little fat for deep frying, but you don’t need a lot–just enough to cover all of your onion slices when you, very carefully, drop them into the pan.  You should put in one test ring to see whether it sizzles enthusiastically.  When it starts popping happily, add the others. Stir them now and then until they look and smell like fried onions. This will take quite a while.  At least twenty minutes, maybe more.

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Remove them from the pan with a fork and then salt them generously, tossing, and salting and tasting until you have a hard time not eating them all with your fingers. Really, you should save a few for the salads.

3. Meanwhile, heat your grill to HIGH heat.  Super hot.  Smoking hot.  And scrub the gunk clean from it.  Then drop your steak onto the grates and leave it alone, for heaven’s sake.  How long you leave it there will depend on how thick it is and how done you want it.  This steak wasn’t especially thick, so I think I only cooked it for two or three minutes before flipping it and finishing it off for another minute or two.   Try the hand test.  Aim to undercook it because it will cook a bit more after you take it off the grill.  Place it on a plate, add the tablespoon of butter to the top, and squeeze the lime juice over it.  Then tent it with foil and let it rest for at least 5 minutes.

4.  In the meantime, chop your romaine and assemble the rest of your salad.  Save the onions and the steak for the last minute.  You should also add to your salads the juices that gather in the plate while the steak rests.

Serve with crusty bread and an adult beverage, like so:

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2 thoughts on “Date Night Salad

  1. Pingback: Smoky Red Lentils with Fried Sweet Onions | Plainclothes Feast

  2. Pingback: Roasted Summer Greens Salad | Plainclothes Feast

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