Romaine Salad With Bee Pollen Vinaigrette Recipe

Garett McMahan, the chef de cuisine of New York City's Perilla restaurant, really wanted an '85 Cadillac. So at age 14, he took a job washing dishes at a restaurant in his hometown of La Porte, Indiana, and worked there until he was 18. By then he'd been bitten by the restaurant bug, and following his high school graduation, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.

For his culinary school externship, McMahan worked at Bouley in New York City; the restaurant eventually hired him for a paid position. He then went on to work at New York's Atlas, Citarella and The Harrison, where he first made the acquaintance of Perilla chef-owner (and winner of the first season of Top Chef) Harold Dieterle.

He's worked at Perilla since the restaurant opened in 2007. And though the restaurant serves dishes as varied as baked eggplant stuffed with paneer and spicy duck meatballs, for Sous Chef Series, McMahan focused on a basic dish: A green salad with a sprightly vinaigrette.

Recipe adapted from Garett McMahan, Perilla, New York City

Romaine Salad With Bee Pollen Vinaigrette
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Meet Garett McMahan, chef de cuisine of Perilla in New York City, and get his recipe for an autumn salad
Prep Time
Cook Time
servings (with enough spiced pecans for 4 salads)
Total time: 15 minutes
  • Spiced pecans
  • Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon
  • Pecan halves, ½ cup
  • Granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon
  • Aleppo or cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon
  • Vinaigrette 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, ¾ teaspoon
  • Shallot, ½ small (peeled, halved crosswise and thinly sliced)
  • Honey, ¼ teaspoon
  • Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons
  • Grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • Salad
  • Romaine, ½ head (leaves separated and roughly torn)
  • Apple, ½ (preferably Honeycrisp; cored and thinly sliced)
  • Wedge of Pecorino cheese, 1 ounce (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
Optional Ingredients
  • Bee pollen,  ½ teaspoon (optional)                        
  1. Make the spiced pecans: In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the • Unsalted butter Stir in the • Pecans halves • Granulated Sugar • Aleppo pepper Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir occasionally, until the pecans are toasted and glazed, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a large plate and set aside to cool.
  2. Make the vinaigrette: Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet and then place back over medium heat. Add the • Extra-virgin olive oil • Sliced shallot Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then stir in the • Honey Continue to cook the shallots until they are deep brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes (reduce the heat to medium-low if the shallot-honey mixture starts to burn). Use the rubber spatula to scrape the shallots into the blender. Add the • Apple cider vinegar • Bee pollen (if using) Purée until smooth, then slowly add the • Grapeseed oil • Kosher salt • Freshly ground black pepper Blend until emulsified, thick and creamy.
  3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the • Torn romaine leaves • Apple slices • Spiced pecans • Shaved Pecorino cheese Add the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
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