08 September 2009

CLASSICS: Caesar Salad

I love new things. But sometimes I just have to go back and revisit the classics. After all, there's a reason they're classic, eh? This is one of my favorites. When summer comes and the Romaine lettuce starts to come in, I love to make this salad. With a cheese tartine, it's a light meal.

The dressing is essentially a fancy mayonnaise, and I love the complexity of its flavors. YES, it's got anchovies in it (eeewww, I can hear you saying), but they're really necessary to achieve the depth of flavor in this. Don't leave them out, I beg you. It's worth it. Don't leave out the Tabasco, either. It doesn't make the dressing hot, it just makes it perfect. In fact, don't leave anything out. Promise me that you'll make it just like this, at least the first time. After all, there's a reason it's a classic, eh?

I like to make the croutons, let them cool, and mix them with the dressing before I add the lettuce. That way the creamy dressing has a chance to get to know the crunchy croutons.

2 heads Romaine lettuce
1 0z/25 g shaved parmesan (or you can use fresh grated)

2-3 slices bread (I like to use a sourdough rye), cut into small cubes
1-2 tsp olive oil

1 small clove garlic
1 oz/25 g/half a small can of anchovies
1 egg yolk
1/4 t salt
1 T lemon juice
1/8 t dry mustard powder or 1/4 t strong mustard
1/2 T Worchestershire sauce
1-2 dashes Tabasco
2 oz/50 ml good olive oil
2 oz/50 ml unflavored oil (canola/colza or sunflower)
2 T water
1 oz/25 mg freshly grated parmesan.

First, make the croutons. Put the olive oil in a frying pan and heat it gently. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat them with the oil. Heat over medium heat, tossing frequently, until brown and crunchy, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Cool.

Wash and dry the lettuce, and tear it into bite-sized bits. Put it in the fridge to crisp while you make the dressing.

To make the dressing, put the garlic through a garlic press into a bowl. Chop the anchovies and add them, along with the egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, mustard, Worchestershire sauce and Tabasco. Whisk/press/mash all this together, and add the oils s-l-o-w-l-y. Remember, you're making a fancy mayonnaise here, so the mayo rules apply. GO SLOW. (Or, you can do what I do sometimes and put it all in a glass with an immersion blender and whizz it. But you still have to add the oil slowly.) If it gets too thick, add some of the water. It should be thicker than vinaigrette but a little thinner than mayo. It should pour, but just barely. I'd add some water anyway, to help the oil emulsify in the egg yolk.

Put the dressing in your salad bowl, and add the grated parmesan and the cooled croutons. Mix well. Add the lettuce which should by now be really crispy and fresh. Toss gently. It may take a few minutes to toss it all, but take your time. It's worth it. Sprinkle with the shaved parmesan to serve.

Serves 4 (as a main course) if they like it and 10 if they don't.

  • You can add garlic or herbs to the oil before you put the bread cubes in to have flavored croutons. I don't do this, because I tend to use hearty bread with a lot of its own flavor.
  • You can of course add chicken or ham or shrimp or grilled slices of beef to this salad. Or you can add them to the tartine you have with it. Or you can serve them on the side and keep the crisp lettuce with its cloak of dressing.
NOTE: This recipe is gluten free if you leave out the croutons.


Juliana said...

I have to make a confession...never made caesar salad at home...I'll definitely try your the homemade dressing :-)

traveleatlove said...

I love caesar salad, comfort in a salad is pretty nice!

Grace said...

confession: i detest caesar salad dressing. isn't that sad? it IS a classic dish, and it's on every menu everywhere, but i just can't stomach it.