Belltown. Queen Anne. Pike Place Market. Are you with me? Chinatown-International District. Space Needle. Dale Chihuly. Alki Beach. You know where I am now, right?
Seattle. We’ve been fans of this vibrant, northwestern city for decades and with each visit we explore, eat and enjoy every single experience with eyes wide open. Surrounded by the Puget Sound on the west and Lake Washington on the east, there is a thriving, rich and impressively local food culture. This makes it hard to pick our favorite restaurants, though we have our special spots to which we always return.
The Best of Seattle
We love Macrina Bakery and Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie and no trip to Seattle is complete without sliding into Pike Place Market–the grandfather of all farmers markets. Lowell’s and Jack’s Fish Spot are stand-outs in the market and, if you can, you’ll also want to drop into Salumi, owned by Mario Batali’s dad. Need I say more?
We think a lot of Cafe Juanita and are still dying to get to Delancey, but I am sorry to say that we have never been to one of Seattle’s most iconic restaurants, Canlis. Sure, we have talked about making a reservation many times, but truth is, there’s such a diverse restaurant scene–most of which is both casual and fabulous–we tend to not do a lot of “fine dining” while visiting the Emerald City.
Saveur to the Rescue
It was late January when I received the weekly email from Saveur magazine featuring the recipe for the famous Canlis salad. I immediately printed it and wrote “summer salad idea” on the paper. Even though I stuck the recipe in my “to make” folder, I haven’t stopped thinking about this salad. Honestly…
Obviously, Sam Sifton, The New York Times food critic and I think alike because he recently featured this stunning salad recipe in the March 3 issue of the New York Times Magazine. Granted, he stumbled upon this more than a few weeks after I did, but still, he gets credit for shining the national spotlight on this famous salad.
They have been making this salad at Canlis since 1950 and six decades of history gives it a certain amount of credence. Plus, in 2012, it was voted Seattle’s “best salad” by the readers of Seattle Magazine. And the locals always know where the good food is, so I decided that even though it’s not summer yet, we needed to try this salad that has become a Seattle tradition.
But before I jumped into this recipe, I did a little research to see what else was out there about the sublime Canlis salad. And I was glad I took the time to investigate because I found the actual Canlis salad recipe on the restaurant’s website and it’s a bit different than what both Saveur and Sam Sifton offer. Being a traditionalist, I’m going with the restaurant’s advice and then adding one suggestion from Saveur that I think is a good idea.
So, what’s the big deal about this salad? First of all, it’s simplicity is part of its success and the copious amount of fresh herbs don’t hurt either. The amazing array of textures are truly like nothing you’ve ever had. It’s their version of Caesar salad, but it’s way better than that.
In one bite, you’ll get a toasted herb crouton with the tangy, dressed lettuce and then the next bite you’ll get a crispy piece of bacon, ripe tomato and lemony Romaine that crunches just so. And then, finally, when you think it can’t get any better, the next bite of lettuce is tossed with fresh oregano, fresh mint and green onions.
Now I know why Mark Canlis–one of the founder’s two grandsons who run the restaurant–would never remove this from the menu. I assure you that the next time we visit Seattle, we’re headed straight to Canlis. Even if it’s just for this salad.
Hold on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen, this is one special salad that is worthy of repeating. Again and again. The trick? Get all of your ingredients ready so you can put the salad together quickly. You can make the bacon, dressing and croutons in advance. Chop your herbs and green onions and make sure the lettuce is cleaned and super dry. Yes, there are a few steps in this recipe, but let me assure you...it's more than worth it! And faster and cheaper than a flight to Seattle, unless, of course, you're already in Seattle and then Canlis should be on your hit list. Even if you just have the salad...because, trust me, you won't be the first.
- 1 cup cubed rustic white loaf or baguette
- 2 tablespoons butter unsalted, melted
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 1/2 lb. nitrate-free thick-cut bacon, chopped (about 4-5 pieces)
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 wooden bowl
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup chopped mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 10 yellow and red cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 head of crispy Romaine lettuce washed and dried
- 1/2 cup crispy bacon
- 1 cup croutons
- 3/4 cup Pecorino cheese grated, with 1/4 cup reserved for garnish
For the croutons:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, place the butter and cook in the microwave for 15 seconds increments until butter is melted. Add the dried herbs, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and mix well to combine. Toss in the cubed bread and mix well.
On an aluminum-lined baking sheet, pour the cubes of bread and place in a 325 degree oven.
Stir every 10 minutes and cook until golden. Mine took about 30 minutes or so, but check on them frequently to determine how "toasted" you want them. When they are ready, remove from the oven and set aside.
For the bacon:
In a skillet, add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the chopped bacon and continue boiling until the water evaporates--this should be about 10 minutes.
As soon as the water evaporates, the bacon will start to fry and stir frequently. Again, watch the bacon as it will go from almost cooked to over cooked in seconds... Remove the bacon from the skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
For the dressing:
Boil some water (about 2 cups) and pour in a glass. Gently place the egg in the glass and let sit for 1 minute.
While the egg is being "coddled", drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in a wooden bowl and then rub a garlic clove all around and leave it in the bowl. (If you don't have a wooden salad bowl, just use your regular salad bowl.)
Next add the lemon juice, salt, pepper and whisk. Remove the egg from the hot water and crack it in the bowl and whisk again so everything is combined. While whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing becomes emulsified and thickened. Pour the dressing into another container and set aside.
For the salad:
In the salad bowl, add the herbs, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. Top with the bacon, 1/2 cup of Pecorino cheese and croutons. Toss well. Drizzle with half of the salad dressing and toss again. Taste and, if it needs more dressing, add more.
Toss to combine, plate, sprinkle each plate with a tablespoon of grated cheese, more freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.