All Hail Caesar Salad
I go through months-long phases where all I can think about is Caesar salad. I literally cannot get enough of it. Every menu I look at, I manically scan for Caesar salad. I convince my friends that we should go to the pub down the street instead of that hip new sushi place, because I absolutely must have Caesar salad. I often don’t even care if it’s real Caesar salad—just any Caesar salad will do. Thick, sloppy, white dressing? Yes, sure. Piles of boring crouton cubes made by a robot? Okay, yeah. Sticks of freeze-dried cheese that only soften when soaked in aforementioned white dressing? Gimme.
But then at some point, I snap out of it. All those things have their place (hint: at Applebee’s), and sure, they are delicious in their own way. But can we talk about real Caesar salad for a second? The stuff made with hand-crushed anchovies, raw eggs, aged Parmesan, and toasted torn sourdough? Caesar salad as it’s meant to be? That Caesar salad—the real thing—is the stuff of legend. Originally made in the 40’s by an Italian immigrant (you guessed it, Caesar himself), and later adopted and adapted by every freakin’ restaurant in America, this salad is popular for a reason, and I get why people love it even when it’s pretty crappy. Oddly enough, when I’m having a Caesar salad problem, a real Caesar, this kind of Caesar, breaks the spell. It reminds me of the goodness of whole, nourishing, artisan ingredients; it reminds me to sloowww down and go back to the basics. And that seems like a pretty healthy thing, just like this salad.
Showcase great ingredients
The key is this: A Caesar salad is only as good as the sum of its parts. Use high-quality, handmade ingredients. This is not the time for crappy grocery-store croutons or store-bought dressing. Use good sourdough or a baguette—stale is good, but the original product should be high quality. Likewise, organic eggs, good olive oil, real Parmesan, and super-fresh romaine will be the difference between a sad, boring Caesar from Applebee’s, and this revelatory masterpiece you’re about to serve. The better the original ingredients, the tastier the salad.
Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 full servings; 8 as a side salad. Plus extra dressing for next time.
Drink: A zesty Italian white, like Gavi or Gargenega from Soave
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Make croutons
Tear your bread into 1-inch cubes; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper; cook in the oven for 10–15 minutes until bread has golden tips, but isn’t too crunchy.
While the croutons cook…
3. Coddle your eggs
Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
Using a slotted spoon, gently lower one of the eggs into the water. Let it sit for about 30 seconds, then pull it out. Repeat with the other egg. Set aside and let cool.
4. Remove croutons from oven; let cool
5. Make anchovy-garlic paste
Using a large knife, mince anchovies, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Drag the sharp edge of your knife over the cutting board to make a paste. Place the paste into a medium mixing bowl.
6. Make dressing
Add one whole egg plus the yolk from the second egg into the anchovy paste. Squeeze a whole lemon into the bowl. Whisk to bring ingredients together, then slowly and steadily add about 1/2 cup olive oil, continuing to whisk until it’s thick and glossy. Add salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Last, add a 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan and whisk again. Set aside.
7. Chop your romaine
Set the romaine on your cutting board, and chop into 1/2-inch rings, starting at the green tip, and working all the way back to the white base. Toss the end into the trash. Rotate the cutting board and cut the lettuce length-wise twice, about an inch apart, to make lettuce squares.
Throw chopped lettuce into a large bowl that’s good for tossing.
8. Shave parmesan
Shave about a 1/4 cup of Parmesan into nice thick curls.
NOTE: Stop here if you’re prepping in advance. Pack everything up separately and assemble, toss, and serve a la minute.
9. Assemble and toss
Add croutons and shaved Parmesan to your lettuce bowl. Slowly add dressing and toss, toss, toss. You will not need all the dressing—add just enough to coat the ingredients in a nice gloss, and save the rest. Add salt and pepper, toss again.
10. Serve immediately
I like to transfer the tossed salad into a clean bowl and top with a couple more curls of parmesan and a few croutons for a nice fresh look. Totally optional, of course.
Um, excuse me?
Wait, raw eggs? Won’t I get Salmonella?
No. Contrary to astoundingly popular belief, you’re not very likely at all to get Salmonella from raw eggs. Salmonella comes from contamination on the shell of an egg—i.e., when an egg rolls around in chicken poop, and then you crack it and the white comes into contact with the dirty shell—but the raw egg itself is not bad, no matter how raw or cooked. If you sterilize the shell by dunking it in boiling water, also called “coddling,” you further decrease the already minuscule probability that you will catch food-borne illness. That said, as with any raw product, the risks are greater for babies, the very elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. Good thing you’re not a baby!
Okay but can I make it without raw eggs?
You can, but it’s kinda the thing about this recipe. A traditional, real Caesar is made with raw eggs to thicken the dressing, and to add a delicious, smooth mouthfeel. If you really just can’t with the raw eggs, try using Dijon mustard, buttermilk, and a bit of sugar to thicken it.
Isn’t traditional Caesar served with whole lettuce leaves?
I think so, but what a bad eating experience! I don’t want to have to painstakingly cut every piece of lettuce while I’m eating a salad like this. I just want to eat it. So, do your guests a favor—slice that lettuce in advance.
How do I know if I’m using the right kind of Parmesan?
As long as it’s marked “Parmesan,” with a capital “P,” you’re good to go. If you want to take it up a notch, go to your cheese counter and asked for some really good, aged Parm. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to oblige.
Should I make this for Thanksgiving?!
Yaasss! Crisp, clean Caesar is a great antidote to all that rich, gluttonous food. It’s the perfect side salad for a holiday meal.
Can I tell you more about why I’m scared of Salmonella?
You bet! DM us on Instagram @idratherbemeryl.