Caesar salad, a perfect storm is brewing.
My Romaine lettuce is going to peak this coming weekend. The hens are giving us a bounty of fresh eggs. Always have good, home baked, bread on hand for croutons.
How would you make your perfect Caesar salad?
Anchovies, fresh grated Parmesan Romano, fresh ground black pepper, sliced tomato but not mixed into the salad. If you have so much Romaine I would use only the green and leaf parts and toss out the watery ribs. But your homegrown may have ribs that are more tasty than store bought.
One option is using all or some of the olive oil the anchovies come in. I like anchovies and their oil but many don't.
I would follow the advice of James Beard in Beard on Food: toss the (dry) lettuce in olive oil first.
I know this is blasphemy, but my perfect dressing would start with homemade mayonnaise which I would make with olive oil and lemon juice. I would then put anchovies, one garlic clove, Dijon mustard, a dash of balsamic, cracked pepper, lemon zest and more lemon juice into my small food processor and whir it. Once it was all blended, I would add some of the mayo and olive oil until it was the right consistency. Croutons would be made by frying cubes of homemade Italian bread in olive oil and then lightly salted. To assemble, all lettuce would be torn into bitesize pieces and then tossed with dressing, finely grated Romano and coarsely grated Parmigiano. The warm croutons would be added at the last second.
The original Caesar salad did not contain anchovies. It did use worcestershire sauce which does have anchovies as an ingredient. Keep the Romane leaves whole. The salad was meant to be eaten off a plate with fingers.
I'd get the freshest, most tender Romaine leaves I could find. Day-fresh egg. Good dijon. Lots of fresh ground black pepper. Juice of at least half a lemon. 4-5 smooshed anchovy filets & 2 garlic cloves. 1/4 cup of good olive oil. About 1/3 of a cup of parmiggiano reggiano. I like mixing in fresh chives sometimes. Hold the croutons, I find them to be rather unnecessary. Unless they've been rolled around in smooshed anchovy filets/oil and then baked (as served at The Breslin in NYC).
I like eating my salad with a fork, so the leaves would be chopped bite size.
Great, now I want Caesar! Good thing I'm getting two dozen super-fresh eggs tonight!!!!
I did a test run tonight with some of the lesser quality leaves on my lettuce plants.
Used one garlic clove, a dash of Worcestershire, a tiny dollop of prepared brown mustard, lemon, olive oil, and a yolk from an egg laid yesterday. Fresh grated parm in the dressing and more on top. Salt and fresh cracked pepper, obviously.
It came out very, very good. Never made dressing with raw egg like this before. Hope we aren't hugging the porcelain throne tonight.
I learned by setting up the table side cart for my college's faculty club's restaurant 100s of times.
Start with a wooden bowl.
Add walnut oil and shallots and mash them around into a paste, seasoning the bowl
Scoop most of the shallots out and toss
Add dry mustard, anchovy paste, Lea & Perrins, a coddled egg yolk, a fair bit of fresh ground pepper, and (if needed) a bit more walnut oil and mix well.
Add the romaine and toss well
Add croutons and toss lightly
Sprinkle with gated Parmigiana.
Plate and add pepper to taste.
This became my go to salad when I wanted to impress a date. Follow it up with some grilled salmon or steak and end the night with banana flambe over ice cream.
What an interesting twist! I love walnut oil for many salads, but never thought of using it in Caesar. Of course, I use anchovy filets which might overpower the walnut oil.... I'll definitely give that a try next time around, tho. Which is tomorrow. Whole egg, too, not just the yolk.
My variation is:
Romaine lettuce cleaned and torn
Homemade croutons-fresh bread cut into cubes, mixed with crushed garlic and parsley and toasted under the broiler
Sautéed portabella mushrooms-sliced, sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with garlic and parsley, salt and pepper
Dressing-chopped garlic, drained anchovies chopped, salt, pepper, worcestishire, touch of Dijon, olive oil and raw eff all blended together.
For us the amounts vary a bit for what we're in the mood for that night,
More heresy from this corner: I am usually a make everything myself sort of person, and I have done most of the things listed above, but my favorite Caesar is romaine, Cardini's dressing thinned with a little lemon, grated Romano, and home made croutons made from cheap, stale grocery store Itlian bread tossed in salt, pepper, olive oil and Herbes d'Provence.
re: tim irvine
Croutons! Try this! Olive oil, a dollop of butter, worcestershire, and crushed garlic. Nuke until the butter melts and you can smell the Worst. Toss with cubes of day-old French or Italian bread (something with substance, not crappy kleenex ben's bread!) and smoosh with your hands until the flavoured oil/butter mixture is infused into the bread. Bake until crisp. This will give you yummy flavoured croutons that are crisp and light, and not hard to bite into as are most croutons. Seriously! Try it!!