Caesar salads are never hard to find, whether you are in a restaturant, at a salad bar, or looking to pick up a prepackaged salad. You can even purchase Caesar salad dressing (with or without the anchovies). But I wanted to experience a true, classic, made from scratch Caesar dressing and salad. It was both fun to make and surprisingly similar to making aioli or homemade mayonnaise (which no one has ever mentioned).
The classic version of the dressing is prepared by mashing salt, raw garlic and anchovies into a paste, adding a raw egg yolk, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce and then slowly adding olive oil to emulsify the dressing. Strikingly similar to homemade mayonnaise. Like aioli, it has the piercing raw flavor of garlic but surprisingly, it is the anchovy that mellows out that raw flavor.
Make your own croutons; it takes minutes to simply toast some bread and then pan fry them in garlic oil, which you have time to do while the dressing is chilling in the refrigerator. Of course the many variations on this salad include proteins like salmon or chicken or shrimp, but I decided to have it au natural, just lettuce, croutons and cheese. Delightful!
Classic Caesar Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and cut in ribbons
3 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
2 small cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6-8 tablespoons olive oil
2 pieces of bread, crusts cut off
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced thin but not chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
In mortar and pestal (or using the pestal in the bottom of a small mixing bowl, mash salt, garlic and anchovies into a paste; make sure garlic is fully mashed and blended. Add egg yolk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and whisk briskly for 2-3 minutes until blended and foamy. In a thin stream, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, whisking as you go. Whisk for 1 minutes and then repeat. Repeat until dressing reaches your desired consistency – very emulsified and creamy but not a mayonnaise. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Make croutons by toasting bread if it isn’t already dried or second day bread and cut in cubes. Heat olive oil over high heat in skillet and saute garlic until it begins to brown; remove garlic from heat but leave oil in pan. (I added it to the salad). Add bread to pan and toss to coat in garlic oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side and remove from heat (the bread will soak up the oil but allow it to brown in the pan; don’t let it burn!). Remove and set aside. Add washed and sliced lettuce to large mixing bowl and drizzle half of dressing over salad and mix well. Add croutons and Parmesan cheese and toss well. Add several turns of fresh pepper and additional dressing if so desired.
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