I first had Lettuce Wedge Salad, in London, in a restaurant called Roka. Of course, the restaurant has stayed a favourite, as has this salad. I would always, analyse it, gaze at it in wonder and awe, thinking I will replicate it in some manner. And – I would always forget.
The fresh crisp lettuce, perfect square wedges of stacked leaves, the immensely flavourful dressing – everything made it a favourite, of ordered a dish.
I went on a hunch, (because I was daunted by those perfect square wedges) and bought two fresh heads of lettuce. I had no idea how to cut it. No matter how many times I would visit the salad in my mind’s eye, knife in hand, I could not figure out how to cut it. I have no formal training in cuisine, so these skills are alien to me, till I figure them out.
With great trepidation, I cut the salad in half, vertically, root to the top of the head. Then I sank all the four heads in ice water, (more ice, less water) and left it to hydrate for approximately 30 minutes. Let me tell you what happened! The lettuce took in so much water, it took me another 10 minutes to drain it. But the lettuce was happy to have had that water. The leaves were crisp and clean.
Then I randomly chopped here and there, but the wedges were nowhere near perfect. I took a pause and really visualised, and them hit on the right technique.
This is how it is done.
Firstly – try not to use a metal knife. The metal in the knife oxidises the leaves and makes them look soggy. A plastic or ceramic knife works very well. I had bought a ceramic knife from Japan, Kyocera brand, and was warned that it could lop off my fingers if I am not careful. I use it very sparingly, because hey! I love my digits.
Now then on to the method –
I am going to be showing pics at every step because I am finding it very difficult to explain the process! Words are just not enough.
Chop the lettuce vertically, from the root to the top. (see pic below)
Dunk in ice water, and drain well after 30 minutes.
Now take the chopped side, the side where you can see all the layer of leaves, and place that to your right. (see pic below)
Then, take three, (if you have a larger head of lettuce then take four or five) long wooden barbecue sticks, (they should be larger than cocktail toothpicks – about 4 to 5 inches long) and leaving an inch from the side of the cut side of the lettuce, poke them at 1 and 1/2 inches interval. This is done 90 Deg from the cut side of the lettuce, and not parallel to the root and cut side of the lettuce. (see pic below)
The cutting will happen from the non-cut side of the lettuce. The one which is the root side and on your left. The opposite side of the cut side of the lettuce. (see pic below)
Taking your knife and leaving an inch from the uncut side of the lettuce, cut off the part with the toothpick inserts. The toothpick inserts should now be all in a row, and the large wedge should have separated from the main head of lettuce. (see pic below)
Now, just lop off individual wedges, seeing that you get as close to a square as possible. (see pic below)
Trim the wayward leaves, and push the stack of cut lettuce wedge further into the stick.
Garnish, turning it all around.