Sunday, April 9, 2017

Oh, Caesar, Bring Me Your Dressing!

For years I've wanted to find the perfect (and authentic) Caesar dressing, so I developed my own. I've had it at two restaurants outside of San Francisco. I mention San Francisco because everywhere I've had a Caesar salad there, well, it's been outstanding. It's one of the easiest recipes, but you will need a food processor. A blender just won't work as well. If you have a small processor, make half of this recipe.

Caesar dressing is underwhelming to look at. It's brownish and uninspiring, but--BUT--it is quite another expression when you taste it! The salad is easy enough, but easy isn't always a simple as opening a bag of pre-washed lettuce with the cheese and croutons included. No. You buy the Romaine whole, tear off the leaves, wash and set in a colander to drain the excess water, then wrap it all up in a cloth towel and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. This brings the lettuce up a notch in the crisp and refreshing department. The croutons? Get a loaf of French or Italian bread, cut into cubes and place on a baking sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with your hands. Place on the middle rack of a 350F oven and cook until the bread cubes are lightly browned and very crisp. The cheese? Your best bet is to grab a nice chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and use a vegetable peeler to shave off the amount that you want. I always want a lot.




SASSY CAESAR DRESSING 

2 (2 oz) cans anchovies 
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped 
2 t. dijon mustard 
1 whole egg and one egg yolk, coddled if you wish * 
2 dashes hot sauce (I use a lot more)
juice of two lemons (1/4 cup) 
1 T. red wine vinegar 
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce 
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil 
Typically, the same cheese with which you finish the salad is also added to the dressing. I don't do that. I find that what I add to the salad is more than enough.

As much Parmigiano-Regianno cheese as you wish
2 heads romaine lettuce 
croutons (oh, go on, make your own) 

Process all of the ingredients except for the oil. Once everything is in a loose paste-like consistency, slowly drizzle in about 1/4 of the oil while continuing to process. Now you can speed up from drizzling to pouring. You'll notice that the dressing has emulsified and is a bit thick. Refrigerate at once. 

To assemble the salad, tear the lettuce into a huge bowl, add the cheese, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Serve with extra cheese and top with croutons. 

*Some recipes recommend doing this in order to ensure a bacteria-free egg. I've tried it, but cannot say that it's worth the extra effort. I've made mayonnaise and aioli and never "treated" the egg. Please use your own judgment. To coddle the eggs, drop them into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds and remove. 

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