The Caesar salad is one of those foods that we’ve all had, but it is rare that we have the opportunity to enjoy a real Caesar salad. Why, you ask? Well, it’s the egg. From what I understand, and who knows if it is correct, the original salad dressing calls for a coddled egg, which does not cook through and therefore may contain bacteria. Regardless, I like to dine on the edge, so when I prepare a Caesar salad, I go coddled all the way.
The first time I made a Caesar salad, it was because I bought romaine lettuce on sale, and found the taste and texture of the leaf difficult to mix with other ingredients. I did a search for recipe ideas that use romaine lettuce, and voila, there was the Caesar salad.
The Caesar salad has three main components: romaine lettuce, dressing, and croutons. The leaves should be washed, dried and then torn into relatively large pieces. I make croutons from a baguette, usually whatever day or two old bread I might have lying around (that tends to be the impetus for me making the salad, that, or garlic bread).
I cut the bread into crouton sized pieces, maybe half-inch cubes. This time I prepared the salad, I made the croutons too big: they just don’t absorb the oil the same way. Simply mix the cubes with olive oil and any other flavors to taste (such as salt, pepper, garlic, or even Parmesan cheese) and toast until golden brown on a baking sheet.
Then comes the dressing. This is the key to the Caesar salad. Coddling an egg means cooking it in boiling water for no more than 45 seconds, then remove from heat and cool it (I usually place the egg in cold water until I am ready to use it). Then I mix the other ingredients in my hand blender. The dressing consists of garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, capers, Dijon mustard. I don’t include anchovies, only because it is not an ingredient I tend to have around the house, and for much the same reason, I rarely add Worcestershire sauce. My dressing is typically so good that I’ve never missed either ingredient, and I find that using Worcestershire sauce in Bloody Mary’s sometimes makes me feel sick.
Add the lettuce into a large salad bowl, add the croutons and the dressing and toss. Serve on chilled plates and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. I, off course, serve the croutons on the side, and always provide some extra cheese, for lovers of freshly grated cheese.