The classic Caesar Salad can make a diner recall the days of martini lunches, 2-inch steaks, paneled dining rooms, and the Rat Pack. In short, it’s an American classic.
An American classic that originated in Tijuana, Mexico.
Legend has it that Caesar Cardini, a restauranteur in San Diego, invented the salad in 1924. He also operated a restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent Prohibition. According to his daughter, the Caesar Salad was invented out of sheer necessity when the kitchen supplies were depleted.
After a rush on the restaurant one July evening, Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the tableside preparation by the chef. And thousands of tableside performances were born.
So, now you know. It has nothing to do with Julius Caesar (other than the fact that both he and Caesar Cardini were both Italian – technically). And, when my sisters and & I were kids, our dad try to convince us that it was invented by Caesar Romero. (You know, the Joker in the 1960’s “Batman” series.)
A few notes:
1. I (and many others) use anchovies in the dressing. The original recipe didn’t use them; the anchovy flavor came from Worchestershire sauce. If you would prefer to leave them out, go ahead.
2. To make this dressing vegetarian/vegan, omit the egg, anchovies, and Worchestershire Sauce and use vegan mayonnaise and vegetarian Worchestershire Sauce.
3. If you find the addition of all extra virgin olive oil too strong, you can cut it with half pure olive oil or an unflavored oil like vegetable or grapeseed.
4. Since this recipe does use raw egg yolks, it is best not to serve this to anyone who might have a compromised immune system. Healthy adults should be fine – especially if the eggs are fresh. However, if you are concerned about using raw eggs, substitute the mayonnaise.
5. Croutons are essential in this recipe. You can buy them, but they are easy to make. I’ve included instructions.
6. When you grate the cheese, don’t use a Microplane; the cheese will be too fine. Either do shavings of cheese with a vegetable peeler or a larger grater.
7. The most common proteins served with Caesar Salad are grilled chicken or shrimp. However, this does go with almost anything. Or, alone.
2 heads Romaine Lettuce, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 c. day-old bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 c. olive oil (you can use either extra virgin or pure)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
up to 2 tsp. additional seasoning, if desired
3 cloves garlic
6 ea. anchovy filets
2 egg yolks -or- 1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Grated Parmesan, Grana Padana, or Romano cheese
1. Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 250F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with pan spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the oil, salt & pepper, and whatever other seasonings you like. Spread the cubes out in an even layer on the baking sheet and place in the oven.
2. Bake them for one hour, or until they are dried and crispy. Set aside and let cool.
3. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Have a blender or food processor running. Drop in the garlic and anchovies and let them chop. Turn off the blender or processor and add all of the other ingredients, except the oil. Blend or process until all the ingredients are incorporated.
4. With the processor or blender running, slowly add the oil. (You don’t want to add it too fast or it won’t incorporate and your dressing will separate.)
When you’re done processing/blending the dressing, taste it for seasoning. It will be thick.
5. Place a couple of big handfuls of the lettuce in a large bowl. Drizzle over about a tablespoon or two of the dressing and toss until the leaves are lightly coated. (You don’t want the leaves soggy, just lightly coated.) Place the lettuce on a plate and add some of the cheese and croutons on top. Some people also like to sprinkle on some additional black pepper as well. Have a bowl of the dressing on the side in case anyone wants more.
The dressing will last 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator if you use eggs and up to 1 week if you use mayonnaise. The croutons will keep a week in an airtight container.