Caesar salad has nothing to do with Julius Caesar, Italy, or, for that matter, Europe at large. There are a number of different stories about its “invention,” almost all of which take place in California. Its first recorded appearance is on a LA restaurant menu from 1946.
Which is why I was a bit surprised to see it on our French Culinary School curriculum, Week 1. But by the time we were back at our desks, chomping on the most substantial food we had made as of yet, I had made a few key discoveries related to Caesar salad:
- There were people in this Professional Culinary Program with me who had never used a whisk.
- Kenny, the self-professed Second Coming of Carême at the back of the class, preferred Earl’s Restaurants’ bottled dressing. (Note to self: disregard any future culinary opinions expressed by Kenny.)
- Chef P was right about the over-powering flavour of olive oil (especially evoo). (Note to self: cut olive oil with an equal amount of vegetable oil.)
- I had a new Caesar dressing to call my own.
Everyone who tries this Caesar salad swears it’s either the best they’ve ever had, or the best they’ve had in ages. You decide.
|Egg Yolk (large)||1|
|Dijon Mustard||2 t||10 ml|
|Garlic, halved, green root removed||1 clove|
|Olive Oil||5 T||75 ml|
|Vegetable Oil||5 T||75 ml|
|Lemon Juice, fresh squeezed||3-4 T||45-60 ml|
|Romaine Lettuce, picked over and washed||1 head|
|Croutons||Approx 1 C||250 ml|
|Parmesan Cheese, good stuff, freshly grated||¼ C||60 ml|
t=teaspoon ml=millilitres T=tablespoon
C=cup TT=to taste
Pulse the yolk, dijon, garlic and anchovies in a food processor (the small bowl if you have one) 4 or 5 times to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, with the processor on, slowly pour in the oils through the food chute. Scrape the sides of the bowl as required. Once all of the oil is incorporated and the anchovies/garlic are finely chopped, add lemon juice and s+p to taste. Pulse to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 3 days).
2 ways to assemble the salad:
- Using a pastry brush, brush whole leaves of romaine with dressing, sprinkle with parmesan and arrange on a large serving platter. Garnish with croutons and freshly ground pepper. Serve extra dressing on the side.
- Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces. Toss lettuce with croutons, parmesan and salt & freshly ground pepper. Thin dressing to a pourable consistency (see Tips below), and toss with the salad. Serve in individual bowls/plates.
- Chef P’s version originally called for 1 anchovy and ½ cup oil (total). The extra oil in my version stretches the emulsifying capabilities of the yolk, and results in enough dressing for 2 big salads. The extra anchovy adds flavour.
- This is easy to make by hand. Ensure that you mince the garlic and anchovies well. Whisk in the oils very slowly to start. Once some of the oil is incorporated, you can increase the pour speed. Continue to whisk vigorously until well blended.
- If the dressing is too thick, thin with lemon juice and/or water.
- Croutons: a stale loaf of bread, melted butter, chopped parsley, coarse sea salt and pepper. I used sourdough multigrain because that’s what I had — they made for very DENSE croutons that really worked the ol’ jaw.
- Egg whites can be frozen with little effect on quality. Save them up for a big batch of meringues…