Any butterhead lettuce (like Boston Bibb) works in this enticing dish
Things go better with butter. Even lettuce (trust us).
This dish is perfect for entertaining. Because the flavor and texture are sensational – and it’s a real conversation starter.
Discuss among yourselves.
Recipe: Hot-Buttered Butter Lettuce Salad
You can use any type of lettuce you like in this salad. But it’s best when made with one of the leafy butterhead varieties (that is, butter, Bibb, or Boston Bibb). There are subtle differences among these various butterheads, but they can be used interchangeably. The type you’re most likely to see in markets is Boston Bibb, so that’s what we’re using.
We first saw this recipe years ago in the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. We forgot about it until recently, when we spotted the recipe while browsing through The Gourmet Cookbook (the big yellow volume edited by Ruth Reichl). We were excited to rediscover the dish, and it has become a frequent visitor to our table.
This recipe takes about 10 to 15 minutes for prep and assembly.
It makes 4 first-course servings.
- ~8 ounces Boston Bibb lettuce (1 large head; see Notes)
- ½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove (optional)
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt to taste (a few pinches of kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (a few grinds for us)
- garnish of hard-boiled egg slices, cherry tomatoes, and/or prosciutto slices (optional)
- Separate the lettuce leaves. Then wash, dry, and chill them. An hour before serving, remove the lettuce from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature (the lettuce can’t be cold when you make this salad; if it is, the butter will congeal on the leaves – very unappetizing).
- When you’re ready to make the salad, place the lettuce leaves in a heat-proof bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Peel the garlic clove (if using), cut it in half, and add it to the butter. Simmer the garlic clove in the butter for 3 minutes.
- Remove the garlic clove and discard it. Add the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk for a minute to combine – the mixture should be light and frothy.
- Add the butter mixture to the lettuce, then toss to combine. Divide the lettuce among individual serving plates. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- Boston Bibb usually features larger heads than other varieties of butterhead lettuce. So one large head of Boston Bibb might equal two to four heads of another variety. Go by weight and be prepared to adjust quantities. With that said, exact quantiles aren’t critical with this recipe.
- Butter and lemon provide much of the flavor in this dish. So use high-quality butter. You might want to consider buying one of those “European” style butters.
- Make sure to use fresh lemon juice – its flavor is much better than bottled, or even frozen.
- Speaking of lemon juice, feel free to adjust the quantity to taste.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the flakes are larger, so it doesn’t pack a measure as tightly). If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- You can serve this salad without garnish, but we usually add it. We like to use slices of hard-boiled egg and cherry tomatoes. Slices of prosciutto or ham are also terrific in this salad. Croutons would work nicely, too.
“Holy butterballs, Batman,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This is delish.”
“You’re going through that salad like a hot knife through butter,” I said.
“Well, you greased the fork with this one,” said Mrs K R. “It’s melting away like butter in the sun.”
“Aw, shucks,” I said. “You’re just trying to butter me up.”
“Indeed,” said Mrs K R. “So you’ll make this dish again, my little lettuce leaf.”
Mrs K R. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
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