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Caesar Salad

Many restaurants serve them, but very few make it in the original style. That involves tableside preparation, starting with the dressing, which is made from scratch to order. (Pre-made dressings, even those made in house, need not apply.) Julia Child once published the recipe she got from Caesar Cardini, who invented it in Mexico. That recipe has two interesting oddities. First, the original didn’t include anchovies, other than the small amount of anchovy in Worcestershire sauce. Second, Chef Cesar broke his eggs over the greens, then tossed them to mix the egg with the other dressing ingredients already in the bowl. Well. I like anchovies, and we’re so accustomed to seeing them in a Caesar salad that here they are. And I prefer the consistency that comes by adding the egg into the dressing instead of to the greens.

Here are two other new wrinkles. Fry the anchovies, as well as some capers. (It’s a good use for the inexpensive, large capers, which actually work better for this than the better-tasting small ones do.) I first saw this idea at the now-extinct Begue’s in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans, and it can replace some or all of the croutons. (Who really likes croutons, anyway?)

So let’s get that big wooden bowl you never use and get to work.

Caesar Salad

  • 1 perfect head of romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed, picked well
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Anchovies to taste, cut into fours
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted croutons
  • Garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 anchovies, cut in half
  • 2 Tbs. large capers, drained

1. Cut off the bottom inch of the romaine head. Tear–don’t cut–the larger romaine leaves into no more than four pieces per leaf. Rub the inside of a bowl with the garlic cloves, then throw them away.

2. Rub the inside of a bowl with the garlic cloves, then throw them away.

3. Add the mustard, the vinegar, the Tabasco and the Worcestershire and whisk them together.

4. Slowly add half the olive oil and a tablespoon of water. Whisk until a smooth emulsion forms. Add the egg yolk and whisk till blended. Then add the rest of the olive oil–again, slowly–while whisking constantly. The dressing should thicken noticeably.

5. Add the greens to the bowl and toss them to coat. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and the croutons, and toss just a little more. Serve immediately–the greens will begin to wilt.

Optional anchovy garnish:

Before beginning to make the salad, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan until it shimmers. Add the anchovy halves and the capers, and fry until crisp. Remove the anchovies and capers and drain in a sieve. The oil can be used to replace some of the fresh oil used to make the dressing, after it cools.

Serves four side salads.

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