100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 29, Caesar Wedge Salad at Provisions
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg It's not a traditional salad, but it's all the better for being unique.
I love salads. I really do. A hazard of my job is that I don't get to eat many (who wants to read about bowl after bowl of dressed arugula?), so when I'm out eating just for fun--not to write about it--I tend to look for unique and creative salads. One of my all-time favorites, one that I order again and again, often as a whole meal, is the Caesar wedge salad at Provisions.
In theory, it's enormously simple. It's a whole wedge of romaine lettuce rolled in Caesar dressing and then a mixture of Parmesan, toasted bread crumbs and dried capers, topped with a few white anchovies and a few rings of pickled lemon. That's it. Caesar salad deconstructed. So easy you could make it at home, right?
Wrong. Or at least, I haven't been able to replicate it.
First off, I'm not sure where to find pickled lemons. I could make my own, of course, but I don't have the foresight to do that in advance of when I'll inevitably crave them on a salad. Secondly, the crunchy blend of Parmesan, bread crumbs and dried capers is inimitable. I've tried with powdered Parmesan and freshly grated Parmesan. I've tried making my own bread crumbs and stirring them in with the cheese. I have no idea how to go about drying or dehydrating capers without a machine.
You see, that's the beauty of the meals at Provisions. It's the simpler, heartier sister of The Pass, a restaurant we all know makes ample use of dehydrators, liquid nitrogen, maltodextrin and the like to turn everyday foods into extraordinary works of art. And a bit of that creativity and whimsy spills over into the dishes at Provisions.
This is how you get a crust on the romaine wedge that crunches when you cut into it and bites back with sharp Parmesan and vinegary capers. This is how you get wafer-thin pickled lemons that taste, indeed, like the perfect marriage between a fresh, juicy lemon and a dill pickle wedge. This is how you're delighted rather than annoyed that your "salad" is still one big hunk of greens that no one in the kitchen bothered to tear up into manageable pieces.
The Caesar wedge is served with a steak knife, and you'll need it to cut through the outer layer of bread crumbs and the crisp, bright-green center of the romaine wedge. It makes a marvelous noise when you cut it, as if you're slicing through egg shells or crunching on carrots. And, in the process, the crumb coating will fall off a bit, and the anchovies will slide onto the plate, and you'll be left with a beautiful, wonderful mess to eat up. I wouldn't blame you if you used your fingers.
Sorry it's shaky. I'm clearly not talented enough to slice a salad and film smoothly simultaneously.
See the full list of favorites on the next page.