Summer is the prime time for salads and grilling. Do both at the same time with this tasty recipe that takes your classic Caesar salad to the grill.
Wait, grilled lettuce? "Yes, grilled romaine has a smoky undertone that makes the lettuce so flavorful and just takes it to a whole new level," says Chef Ken Durbin, owner of The At Home Chef. "I topped mine with fresh-sliced, aged Parmesan Reggiano, drizzled Caesar dressing, and crushed croutons. And I sourced everything on this dish from Findlay Market."
Durbin enjoys working with seasonal and locally-sourced produce and products that he hand-selects from local farmers and purveyors. “It just tastes better when I can pick it myself or talk with the person who grew it,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve developed so many relationships that help me get exactly what I’m looking for, inspire new ideas, and make great suggestions.”
Keeping fresh ideas and inspiration flowing is important for Durbin, as he customizes each dinner party to be unique to each client. "After a decade of being a private chef, I've never repeated a menu," he says. "Each is tailored to what's in season, favorite foods, any dietary or cultural preferences, and what kind of experience the client is wanting to create. Then I come up with a menu that’s unique to them.”
As for the Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad, Durbin says it’s a great dinner party dish. “It has the 'wow factor' of something unique that most people haven’t seen or had before. It’s also something you can make in advance if you’re entertaining,” he says. “Just grill the lettuce ahead of time and chill until you’re ready to finish off the dish.”
As a private chef, Durbin takes the hassle out of hosting. “We create in-home fine dining experiences so the host and guests can enjoy each other. It’s like a nice restaurant comes to your home," he says. “I love when I see everyone around the table, talking, laughing, no phones out, no one stressing about the food or dishes or cleaning up. We take care of all of that so they can just enjoy life."
The At Home Chef not only takes care of all the ingredient sourcing from local farms and businesses and, of course, the cooking. They also take care of everything else, like serving your guests, clearing the table, cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash (click here to see our recent review).
He says the process for creating a dinner party experience is simple. "When someone reaches out, we gather all the important details - date, number of people, and what they're celebrating,” he adds. “There’s usually something in particular that they’re celebrating, like a milestone birthday, anniversary, or house warming. I’ve even done engagements and celebrations of life. All really special moments we get to help make happen.”
And that’s what it’s all about for Durbin: helping people enjoy life.
“Personally and professionally, ’Enjoy Life’ has just always been my mantra,” he says. “That’s why I love being a private chef. I’m like an artist, creating moments and memories for people, and food is my medium.”
This episode of "What's Ken Cooking" was filmed at The Crossing at Tanners Creek in Lawrenceburg Indiana.