Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Best Caesar Salad. Ever.
In about 30 minutes of writing this post my friend Kel will be coming over for lunch. I am going to serve her the same thing I've been eating twice a week for two weeks now. Theres something addicting about this Caesar salad. When my sister was visiting a few weeks ago she told me she used to crave Caesar salads all through her pregnancy, but they had to be good. She talked about the croutons not being too dry and needing to be house made (no pre-bagged stuff) and the dressing needed to be real Caesar dressing which meant no overly milky concoctions that resemble something more like ranch. This is Caesar salad we are talking about and it should come with a proper Caesar dressing.
I don't order Caesar salads much because I guess, like my sister, I'm somewhat of a salad snob. With Caesar you only have a couple components going on (lettuce, dressing, croutons and cheese) so it makes sense that it would be important that all those things should work together in harmony. For my part, I like salads that are well tossed in a big bowls and served in the same. I love huge salad bowls to push the roughage around with my fork so I can orchestrate the perfect bite. Everything must be bite sized. I hate having to cut lettuce or croutons after I'm served. Of course, at a restaurant you can't control these elements. That's why I prefer to make a batch of this dressing on Sunday and leave it in the fridge to use whenever I get a salad craving. Of course, being the snob that I am, this means I need to make homemade croutons fresh right before I need them each time, but I don't mind since it take 4 minutes and only dirties a small saucepan. Plus, when I crush that garlic clove to infuse the olive and oil and small pat of butter where I'll later add my bread cubes, it makes me happy. I like to be invested in my lunches. Once the oil is infused, it's just a matter of tossing in cubed bread and crisping them up in the skillet. This method makes for chewy crisp croutons which are my favorite for texture. It pairs so well with the lettuce and they don't scrape up the roof of your mouth, which is always a good thing. I use Ezekiel brand english muffins for this just to keep my figure in check and to justify using that butter, but anything will work.
One thing most Caesar salad afficianattos will scoff at: This salad dressing does not have a raw egg yolk in it and it really should if it's a proper Caesar. There are rules to these things, you see. I'm fine with this because I'm pregnant and shouldnt have them. Plus, I really only care about the flavor which is spot on without said egg yolk. You can always add it. The other thing? I leave out the anchovies. I know, another no-no. Don't get your panties in a bunch becuase the recipe still calls for it so you can breathe a sigh of relief.
I love that my friend Kel is super talented. Like, when you invite her over for lunch and ask her to snap a few pictures of you preparing salad for the blog, she happily obliges, clicks a few times and that's it. Miraculously, every picture is in perfect focus. Photographers are not fair this way. It's like they don't even have to try. Even though I know she practiced and practiced and learned such things to make it look effortless. Or maybe she has no skills and I just have a stellar camera with phenomenal lighting in my kitchen. Except then I'd have to explain why my pictures don't turn out as well. There goes that theory.
The six-month bump
The Best Caesar Salad. Ever
adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman
4 whole anchovy fillets (optional)
2 tablespoons (and up to 3 tablespoons) Dijon mustard (I use 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar (balsamic makes it nice and rich. I use this)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1/2 whole lemon, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 dash salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loaf crusty French bread (*see my note at bottom)
1/4 cup olive oil (I substitute about half of the olive oil for butter. I really recommend)
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
Hearts of romaine lettuce
Fresh Parmesan wedge
For the dressing: Place the anchovies into a blender or food processor (I use a magic bullet). Throw in the Dijon mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse the processor or blend on low speed for several seconds. Scrape down the sides.
With the food processor or blender on, drizzle the olive oil into the mixture in a small stream. Scrape down the sides. Add the Parmesan, salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Pulse the whole thing together and mix until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate the dressing for a few hours (it just gets better!) before using it on the salad.
For the croutons: Slice the bread into thick slices and cut them into 1-inch cubes.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a small saucepan or skillet over low heat.
Crush-but don't chop-the garlic and add them to the oil. Use a spoon to move the garlic around in the pan. After 3 to 5 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the garlic from the pan.
Add the bread cubes to the butter and oil in the skillet. Mix together, and then sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss and cook in the pan until golden brown and crisp.
For the salad: Wash and dry the hearts of romaine lettuce and chop into bite size pieces by cutting once vertically down the rib and then horizontally. Use a vegetable peeler and shave off large, thin slices of Parmesan.
Drizzle about half of the dressing over the top of the lettuce. Throw in a good handful of the Parmesan shavings. Give it a good initial toss, just so you can evaluate how much more dressing you need.
Add more dressing and Parmesan to taste. Add the cooled croutons. Toss gently.
*Since I make this salad for one, I just use whatever bread I have on hand which is usually an ezekiel english muffin. This works fine. Also, I eyeball how much olive oil and butter I'll need to make the croutons, usually about a half tablespoon of each, and one garlic clove to infuse the oil. It's not rocket science, so don't be afraid to mess this up.
Posted by Krysta at 9:56 AM