The 4 Cardinal Rules of Building a Big Salad
At home, the dish is dinner party gold.
My friend Justin Smillie is one of those larger-than-life New York City restaurant characters who accrues nicknames like a billionaire compounds interest. He’s a big guy with a big personality, a chef whose cooking yields layers of big flavors. So it makes sense that the new hit at his Miami outpost of Upland is a big salad: It’s large-format, composed of pristine ingredients stacked vertically along the interior curve of a giant wooden bowl, and served with a generous crystal carafe of buttermilk ranch dressing. It turns heads in the dining room.
At home, the dish is dinner party gold: Assemble it ahead of time in the biggest, prettiest bowl you own, and pass it around the table with tongs, or serve it tableside with a butler’s flair. Balance is key—you want sweet, sour, and salty flavors; crunchy, soft, and chewy textures; and to arrange the ingredients at various heights—but customize it as you like.
My version includes shrimp, crab legs, avocado, six-minute eggs, pickled carrots and red onions, and roasted sweet potatoes. But you could go Greek with a garlicky skordalia sauce with roasted potatoes and beets. Or think Spain (sliced skirt steak, romesco, grilled scallions, toast rubbed with tomato). Or Super Bowl (wings, blue cheese, celery, pickled carrot, iceberg wedges, garlic bread).
There are but four rules: A big salad requires lettuces, a unifying dressing, a sense of humor, and please, no dipping. This is salad, not crudité. Chances are if you’re a Food & Wine reader, you’re already the best dinner party host (and guest) among your friends. A big salad is a reputation builder, one of dozens of recipes and ideas in this Home Issue that will help you entertain and outfit your kitchen in style. So go ahead, dog-ear these pages. Invite some friends over for Saturday night. Set the table. Go big.