A couple of months ago, I had the cravings for a delightful bowl of Caesar salad. I’ve always been a Caesar kinda girl, but I hated the idea of getting my dressing in a bottle… it just doesn’t scream yummy. This was before my discovery of Boston Market’s chicken Caesar salad, which I shamefully admit I frequent more than I should be.
In the interest of keeping my bank in check, I decided to give the homemade route another go, after my losing smack down with the chocolate chip cookies. Scourging the inter-web for a nice and simple recipe was actually more difficult than I thought. Most recipes require some form of anchovies, which after my ill-fated battle with calamari and halibut, I’ve given up on bringing them back into the apartment.
So when I landed on Julia Child’s Authentic Caesar Salad recipe, I was on cloud nine. What had me worry was the use of a coddled egg (essentially raw), but that was actually the pleasant surprised of the night.
I found an excerpt of Julia Child’s Kitchen via No Anchovies in Caesar dot com, and I highly recommend for you to hop over there to read it. It will bring life into your bowl of salad! The imagery as you read and the tousling of the romaine as you mimic Mr. Cardini’s movement will fill you with satisfaction.
Taken from No Anchovies in Caesar, excerpt of Julia Child’s Kitchen
Serve this as a first course, or it could be a main-course luncheon or supper dish followed by or preceded by aterrine or paté and sliced fresh tomatoes. On our television show I didn't have any time to do the croutons Caesar's way, and you may want to follow Rosa's directions for them: cut homemade type unsweetened white bread into half-inch dice and dry out in the oven, basting them as they brown with olive oil in which you have steeped fresh crushed garlic for several days. Except for the croutons, the following recipe duplicates Rosa Cardini's instructions for her father's salad, as she repeated them to me.
- 2 large crisp heads romaine lettuce
- 2 large cloves garlic and a garlic press
- ¾ cup best-quality olive oil
- 2 cups best-quality plain unseasoned toasted croutons
- 1 lemon
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) genuine imported real Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Peppercorns in a grinder
- Worcestershire sauce
The romaine. You want 6 to 8 whole unblemished leaves of romaine, between 3 and 7 inches long, per person. Strip the leaves carefully from the stalks, refrigerate rejects in a plastic bag and reserved for another salad. Wash your Caesar leaves gently, to keep them from breaking, shake dry, and roll loosely in clean towels. Refrigerate until serving time.
The croutons. Purée the garlic into a small heavy bowl, and mash to a smooth paste with a pestle or spoon, adding ¼ teaspoon salt and dribbling in 3 tablespoons of the oil. Strain into a medium-sized frying pan and heat to just warm, add the croutons, toss for about a minute over moderate heat, and turn into a nice serving bowl.
Other preliminaries. Shortly before serving, squeeze the lemon into a pitcher, boil the eggs exactly 1 minute, grate the cheese into another nice little bowl, and arrange all of these on a tray along with the rest of the olive oil, the croutons, pepper grinder, salt, and Worcestershire. Have large dinner plates chilled, arrange the romaine in the largest salad bowl you can find, and you are ready to go.
Mixing the salad. Prepare to use large rather slow and dramatic gestures for everything you do, as though you were Caesar himself. First pour 4 tablespoons of oil over the romaine and give the leaves 2 rolling tosses–hold salad fork in one hand, spoon in the other, and scoop under the leaves at each side of the bowl, bringing the implements around the edge to meet each other opposite you, then scoop them up toward you in a slow roll, bringing the salad leaves over upon themselves like a large wave breaking toward you; this is to prevent them from bruising as you season them. Sprinkle on ¼ teaspoon of salt, 8 grinds of pepper, 2 more spoonfuls of oil, and give another toss. Pour on the lemon juice, 6 drops of Worcestershire, and break in the eggs. Toss twice, sprinkle on the cheese. Toss once, then sprinkle on the croutons and give two final tosses.
Serving. Arrange the salad rapidly but stylishly leaf by leaf on each large plate, stems facing outward, and a sprinkling of croutons at the side. Guests may eat the salad with their fingers, in the approved and original Caesar manner, or may use knives and forks–which they will need anyway for the croutons.