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Nov 15, 2001 09:08 AM

Caesar Salad Rant

  • c

I saw a posting on the New England board by deb-in-billyburg about Pete's Indian Head Cafe. One of Deb's comments was that the Caesar salad did not contain anchovies. Does anyone other than us feel that it is not a Caesar salad unless it has anchovies in it? It seems to be getting harder and harder to find a restaurant that includes anchovies as a matter of course. Sometimes when I make a point to ask for them they are not available even as an add-on. The response is usually "Not everyone likes anchovies". Fine, then don't call it a Caesar salad if you are not prepared to make it correctly. Now I realize that a Caesar salad recipe also calls for raw eggs, and I'm not so sure that's a good idea any more, but that's a health issue, and I don't think the eggs are as integral to the flavor as are the anchovies.

This of course could lead to a whole other thread about menu listings which turn out to be not what you expected (one of my pet peeves), but that's another subject.
Chow will be assimilated.
Resistance is futile.

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  1. Hear, hear!!! I totally agree..It
    is the "white-breading" of the Caesar Salad, and the people who are asking for it without the delightful fishies don't even know what it tastes like WITH....They're just SURE they don't like anchovies; nasty, fishy smelly little things....Fear of the unknown.

    12 Replies
    1. re: galleygirl

      I don't think anchovies were originally used for Caesar Salad.

      1. re: Romero

        Well, as long as I am not doing anything else, I may as well jump in the pool on this one (watch out for the tidal wave). At the outset, I should state that I adore anchovies and will eat a tin of them at the drop of a hat. (I also like them deep fried with a martini). But the "original" recipe does not call for them. I do like to add anchovies to the salad but I maintain that it is no longer a Caesar at that point (see also "vodka" martini on this point. Martinis are made with gin. Not to be too dogmatic about it...) You can check this reference in La Julia's (as in Child) "How to Cook" tome wherein she tracked down the daughter of the originator, one Caesar Cardini, who worked his art in Tijuana in the 1920's. Allegedly, the salad recipe was brough to the US by thirsty Americans who went to Mexico for potables (and not the water!) Child provides the original--insofar as possible--recipe in that book,certified by Cardini's daughter.

        I have heard it said that people mistakenly thought anchovies were in the salad because they tasted the anchovy in the Worcestershire sauce. I yield to no man in my admiration for Lea & Perrins but I defy the most refined palate to pick out the anchovy flavor in a whole Caesar from the L&P.

        Perhaps, with anchovies, we could call it an "Improved Caesar Salad." But tinkering with a classic is dangerous and is as likely to gain you as much opposition as adherents.

        BTW, Locke-Ober' s used t have great "Anchovies Winter Place" I hope they are yet on the menu when the old gal re-opens.

        1. re: Hazelhurst

          Actually, I have seen articles by researchers which come down on both sides of this - that Caesar Cardini's original recipe did and did not contain anchovies. There is even a faction which believes that the recipe was invented by his brother, not by Caesar. I suppose in this regard I would differentiate between "original" and "traditional". Even if the "original" recipe did not contain anchovies, they have been included for so many years that I think they have now become "traditional". Pre-made Caesar salad dressings, which most restaurants use anyway, usually contain anchovy paste, because the flavor has become so identified with Caesar salad. Again, I don't object to anchovies being left off as standard practice at a restaurant, but to not have them available at all would downgrade the restaurant in my opinion.
          Chow will be assimilated.
          Resistance is futile.

          1. re: chowborg

            Bring your own anchovies to restaurant.

            1. re: Romero

              Re: bringing your own anchovies; I have done this, although most recently it was to ensure a proper holstein schnitzel.

              THe notion of pre-manufactured caesar dressing is horrific. I'd expect the same place to use bottled hollandaise.

              1. re: Hazelhurst

                Alas, you are probably right. If you are looking for a real Caesar experience I highly recommend the 1785 Inn in North Conway, NH. Besides the wonderful view and terrific food, the Caesar salad is prepared, properly, at tableside, with all ingredients in view. The waiter who mixed it carried on a patter which enthralled and entertained the entire dining room when we were there for dinner.

                1. re: chowborg

                  Bravo, its nice to see some passion on this board.

                  1. re: Matt

                    Wel, hell! (as my father used to say)
                    If you cannot stir up a little fun, what damn use are you?

                    I love these recipe discussions. No one is absolutely "right" but we all have a helluva lotta fun playing with it, don't we?

                  2. re: chowborg

                    i cant believe i just came across this because i spent all week thinking about caeser salad, cuz i wanted to make it but without raw eggs, and i thought about eggbeaters but figured they are just raw egg whites, so i did it without eggs and it was good but not AS good . Any suggestions for making a GOOD safe to eat caeser salad. BTW , the only non traditional touch i like is at Polcaris where they add a few chopped tomatoes. or is that sacriligious? I have always heard about the caesar salads at the Espadrille in Burlington Ma, Is it really worth going there?

                    1. re: donut

                      The eggs in most Caesar recipes I know aren't raw but are coddled, cooked in the shell for about a minute and a half. Don't know whether that's long enough to kill what's dangerous or not.

                      1. re: donut
                        Caitlin McGrath

                        Egg Beaters isn't raw, it's pasteurizwd.

                        1. re: donut

                          I have to recommend Cafe Escadrille also - their Caesar salad is worth the drive. I think that most of the places that make their salad table-side are always good, and theirs is one of the best - plenty of anchovies.

                          I know this is going to be blasphemous as it's not "really" Caesar salad but I've made this before for people who are worried about the 'raw egg' situation - and nobody could tell the cheat ingredient (after all, that's what oil, egg, and dijon is anyways?).


          2. With all of this discussion about caesar salads and using raw eggs, I've always used raw egg yolks and have assumed that the lemon juice would take care of any bacteria in the egg. Are there any scientists out there who could comment on this?

            2 Replies
            1. re: chuck s

              Don't count on it.

              If you add enough acid in the form on lemon juice or vinegar to your salad dressing, it will inhibit the growth of bacteria.

              However, it will not kill pathogenic bacteria which may or may not be there, and you have no way to tell whether you've acidified it enough to have that effect.

              Once you ate something with low pH-inhibited pathogenic bacteria like this, it would, in your system, become once more uninhibited.

              1. re: chuck s

                I love making a Caesar salad...I generally boil the egg for 30 seconds...always use anchovies..but mash them to a paste...maybe add a filet or 2 for a garnish. If I'm feeling "dietetic", I sometimes leave out the egg..adding more olive oil..but it does not develop the same rich consistency and is not as good.

              2. Well, as I understand it, the salad properly (but rarely) made uses eggs that have been simmered briefly (like the way southern Italians use eggs to mix with pasta), not completely raw eggs.