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Home-made caesar dressing vs the OG Cardini table-prepared one?

I was wondering if the Caesar dressing prepared directly in the salad bowl at Mexican restaurants is the same as the express one I make at home (stick-blended oil + egg + Worcestershire + lemon juice + garlic, anchovies + mustard + parmesan + s/p)?

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  1. Although the salad originated at a restaurant in Mexico, I've never seen in served in Mexican restaurants. But here's a Serious Eats talk about it that you may like.


    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      It IS served at the original restaurant in Tijuana. And a lot of restaurants here in Los Angeles serve Caesar salads.

    2. The recipe you are using sounds about right but the stick blender does not. Stick blender basically makes it a flavored mayonnaise and that texture is totally off. If you simply whisk your ingredients you'll get the correct texture.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JudiAU

        I was a waiter in a really high end club 25 years ago - we made tableside caesar, and when whisking, took time to truly emulsify the coddled yolk with oil.

        1. re: rudeboy

          Which sounds fine, rude-y. I doubt it's possible/probably that you could get enough speed going to go too far.

          1. re: c oliver

            Oh, I can whip it good, girl! Emulsions were done way before stick blenders ;-)

            1. re: rudeboy

              But you probably could stop more easily so as not to wind up with mayo.

        2. If they're preparing it at tableside you can always look and see what goes into it :). But I've never seen a Caesar Salad in a Mexican restaurant in the US. For that matter, very few US restaurants prepare their own Caesar salad dressings.

          Some people claim that anchovies have no place in a Caesar salad, substituting Worchestershire sauce, but I like those little salty fishies.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tardigrade

            The anchovies are the substitution for the original Worcestershire, I believe.

          2. famous tampa (and also sarasota) cuban restaurant columbia serves tableside caesars. at least they used to do a caesar tableside. now maybe it is only "their" "1905" salad (see photo).

            i agree -- emulsion from stick blender is not same texture as simply whisking in the big salad bowl.

            1. For more Caesar history, look up Julia Child's interview with Caesar Cardini's daughter.

              1. Hey! Thanks for THIS question because in all likelihood, I'm one of the few people left in this world who has actually eaten Caesar salad at Caesar's restaurant on Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana, Mexico way back when. I was a kid -- maybe 12 or 13 (around 1944 or maybe 45), and we were taken to Caesar's Hotel for lunch by house guests from L.A. They made a BIG deal of the salad AND the guy making it, who may well have been Caesar Cardini himself. At least they called him Caesar...? It was an eye opening experience for me; my mother didn't even know how to spell "gourmet," let alone be one, and this occasion was my first knowledge that there was any other kind of lettuce on planet earth besides iceberg! The salad was assembled table side with lots of friendly chat between the guy making the salad and the family friends. I was spellbound and sensed this was a very big deal! So maybe there are a few advantages to being just 10 minutes younger than god after all! The down side is that I was a kid and had little to no real appreciation for the occasion. OR the strange lettuce put in front of me.

                The original method of assembly was NOT to make an emulsified dressing using the egg to stabilize the oil lemon juice combination, but instead the egg was used to coat the bare naked lettuce first to ensure that the vinaigrette and lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese sticks to the romaine. Some claim the egg was coddled (an old cook's trick to re-center the yolk of an egg of unknown age), but why bother if you're just going to break it up anyway? In today's America, only use pasteurized eggs for Caesar's salad!

                To toss in a little trivia, along with the purported history of the salad, back in the 1920s Tijuana, Mexico was a huge tourist attraction for Californians, as it still is today. Hey, booze, good food, risqué nightclub acts and bullfights every Sunday! What could be better than that? The traditional history is that in 1924, a bunch of movie stars drove down to Tijuana for a day of fun, then just before heading home wandered into the shutting down restaurant and asked to be served. Most of the staff was gone and the kitchen was shut down, but the restaurant owner -- Caesar Cardini -- felt compassion for the hungry tourists (little doubt he knew who they were) and put the salad together with what was still available in the kitchen. The celebrities returned to LA/Hollywood raving about Caesar (Cardoni's) salad, and the rest is history.

                Caesar Cardoni had a brother who was also a chef/restaurateur and a partner in the original Caesar's in Tijuana. Both were chefs and owned restaurants in San Diego as well. So both brothers developed their own way with assembling the salad and making the dressing. I have been taught that the original spur-of-the-moment salad Caesar Cardini threw together kept the romaine lettuce whole in individual spears, and used fork-mashed anchovies in the dressing with no Worcestershire sauce. It was his brother who cut the romaine (who wants to try to eat a whole blade of romaine with a fork? Good show!), and that he used Worcestershire sauce INSTEAD of mashed anchovies in his version of the dressing. Anchovies are a primary ingredient of Worcestershire sauce. Whatever the truth is, it's now shrouded in history and/or myth. Nevertheless, it's still a damned good salad.

                Here's the way I've been making it for at least the last half century (or more):

                Rub the interior of a large wooden salad bowl with fresh cut garlic to taste.

                Add 2 or 3 (or more) hearts of romaine that is well washed, spun dry and sliced with a very sharp knife into 1.5" segments.

                In a flat "soup plate" mash 4 or 5 anchovy fillets with a fork. Add about a quarter to a half cup of fine extra virgin olive oil. To that add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder (not a premixed mustard!), one or two well crushed and mashed cloves of garlic, the juice of about half a lemon or so (there is no vinegar in this salad dressing), some freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. If you mash your garlic with salt to obtain a paste, take that salt into consideration. Whisk vigorously with a French whisk and set aside.

                You will need a cup or two of croutons. You can use store bought or make your own. I usually make my own with cubed crusty French or sourdough bread sauteed in butter (I actually use ghee) and crushed garlic. Either saute them in a frying pan or toss well with the garlicky ghee and spread them on a cake cooling rack set in a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven until your preferred shade of brown and crunchy.

                You'll also need a half cup or so of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (but I do cheat! I prefer Pecorino Romano by far) as well as a fair size chunk of the cheese and a vegetable peeler for later.

                You'll also need one or two salmonella free raw eggs, depending on the size of the salad), which is why I only use pasteurized eggs for Caesar salad. Coddle if you wish, but it's not necessary.

                TO ASSEMBLE: The lettuce is already in the salad bowl. Now whisk the raw egg with a fork and pour it over the lettuce. Toss the lettuce with salad servers or your bare hands until every piece of lettuce has a shiny coat of raw egg. Re-whisk the dressing if it has started to separate and pour over the salad and toss well. Add lots of the grated cheese and toss again. Now do the same with the croutons. Arrange salad in individual portions on salad plates or bowls and with the vegetable peeler, shave a few curls of cheese onto each plate. Serve.

                I often add two or three of those very long very thin imported Italian breadsticks at the top of each plate that have some nice very thin prosciutto or a great paper thin slice of a dry salami wrapped around them.

                If you do like Caesar salad, you will likely enjoy this fairly original version. The wrapped breadsticks are my own contribution. Enjoy!

                6 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1

                  That's basically what I've always done but I do use the coddled egg and I ONLY use whole, inside, Romaine to eat with one's fingers.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    You had me at the first full sentence. Great story!

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Since both the restaurant and the salad are still alive and well, here's how they do it:


                      1. re: c oliver

                        I'm glad you found that. The one we make at home looks a lot better. Now I'm not tempted to visit the restaurant.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Thanks for the link, but it made my toes curl! And not even close to how it used to be done. And apparently the salad bowl isn't cleaned between "performances"? Glad it's about sixty years since I ate there... back when a clean, fresh salad bowl was used, along with the original prep method. Think what it must be like by closing time... Sorry! Let's DON'T think about that, Sounds nasty. Sometimes change isn't such a good thing!