Introduction: Caesar Salad
I love a good Caesar salad, but few restaurants make it the way I like it: full of anchovies, fresh garlicky croutons, and high-quality parmesan, then covered in fresh creamy dressing.
Of course, it turns out most of my houseguests don't like discovering a big bite of anchovy any more than most restaurant patrons, so I've started adding them directly to the dressing. It's tidier, and ensures more even dispersal of anchovy flavor in the salad. Plus, I can add extra anchovy fillets to my own salad without ruining it for everyone else.
Feel free to modify levels of garlic and anchovies to taste - this recipe is pretty flexible. Learn how to make this classic salad, then start tweaking the recipe to make it your own.
You can even make it vegetarian by swapping out the anchovies and Worchestershire sauce; I'd recommend replacing them with soy sauce, and perhaps a dab of Marmite or Vegemite (if you've got it) to compensate for the lost umami flavoring.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
knife and cutting board
salad spinner or dish towel
stick blender or whisk/fork and a vigorous arm
1 large head romaine lettuce
1/2 cup coarsely shaved parmesan (get the GOOD stuff!)
1-2 cups of your favorite garlicky croutons, preferably homemade. It's hard to have too many croutons.
2 large lemons, juiced
cider vinegar or similar flavored vinegar
2-4 cloves garlic
1 tin anchovies in olive oil (or 2 teaspoons soy sauce plus a pinch of Vegemite for vegetarians)
2 egg yolks (save the whites for something else)
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
~1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Step 2: Prep Romaine
Wash romaine lettuce, then chop it into bite-size pieces and spin it dry in a salad spinner. If you don't have a salad spinner, shake the water off as well as possible, then wrap the lettuce chunks in a kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze gently to dry them off. This is important because you don't want to dilute your tasty dressing with boring water.
Step 3: Combine Acids
Juice two large lemons, then top off with 1/2 lemon's worth of cider vinegar. (1 part vinegar to 4 parts lemon juice)
This should bring you up to about half a cup.
Rice vinegar or malt vinegar are also acceptable substitutes; the idea is to add a separate, interestingly flavored acid source to really bring out the lemon flavor. Trust me, this works better than just increasing the lemon. You can use white vinegar in a pinch, but it's a bit boring.
(note that these pictures don't match the ingredient order I'm listing here; that means peeking at my measuring cup volume will mostly confuse you.)
Step 4: Add Garlic
Use a microplane grater to grate 2-4 large cloves of garlic directly into your lemon juice mix. This will break open more cells than chopping, and basically "weaponize" your garlic - plus there won't be any big chunks to distract you from the total salad experience.
(Wait, did I just say "total salad experience"? Please consider it said ironically, even if I didn't originally mean it that way.)
Step 5: Add Egg Yolks
Separate two eggs, and add the yolks to the dressing. (The ratio is one yolk per lemon juiced.)
You can use the whites as well if you like, but yolks-only will make for a richer, creamier dressing. Save the whites for whatever you like; they freeze well in ice cube trays for later use.
Yes, these are RAW EGG YOLKS. Governmental estimates put the risk of salmonella contamination at 1:20,000 for raw eggs - that's a lot of salads. If you are immunocompromised, by all means use a pasteurized substitute, but the rest of us should just get over our paranoia (you're more likely to get in a traffic accident on the way back from the grocery) and enjoy delicious food.
Step 6: Add Mustard
Add a scoop of prepared mustard, about one teaspoon. Dijon is fine, as is most any type of mustard; here I'm using jessyratfink's homemade mustard. Yum.
Step 7: Add Fresh Ground Pepper
Grind some fresh pepper into your dressing. I like to add some coarsely-ground pepper, and some finely-ground pepper for flavor/texture variety; I admit this is going a bit OCD. Do whatever makes you happy.
Step 8: Add Anchovy Fillets
Drain the oil from one can of anchovies, and add the fillets to the dressing. Yes, all of them. And if your anchovies aren't packed in olive oil, you should buy better anchovies.
"White anchovies" packed in vinegar are a different critter, and extremely delicious, though much more expensive. You can use them here, but they give a less pungent flavor, and I prefer to eat them whole rather than blended. Maybe save them to add directly to your salad as you scoff at the anchovy haters.
Step 9: Season & Blend
Add a teaspoon of Worchestershire sauce, and eyeball the quantity of dressing you've got. Add olive oil to roughly double the volume, and blend with your trusty stick blender until fully emulsified.
Most salad dressing mavens think you should use a higher ratio of oil, say 2:1 or 3:1, but I love the acidic kick that comes from a 1:1 (or even lower) ratio. Try it my way first; you can always add more olive oil. (In these photos, I've added about 2/3 cup olive oil to 1 1/3 cup dressing: yum.)
This dressing should taste acidic (lemon & vinegar), salty (anchovies and maybe mustard), fishy (anchovies again), garlicky (duh), and rich (egg yolks). If you're missing any of these flavors, or the dressing tastes unbalanced, add more of the relevant ingredient! Remember too that once you pour it over the salad it will become much more dilute - don't worry if it's a bit strong now.
Step 10: Mix and Serve
Toss the salad greens with most of the dressing, then add croutons and shaved parmesan cheese and toss again. The croutons will absorb a bit of dressing, so you may need to add some of your reserved dressing. Serve immediately. This salad goes particularly well with meals that include large chunks of meat, especially when grilled on a hot summer afternoon, but really is good for any meal with flavors strong enough to stand up to it.
This salad will disappear quickly, but if you can manage to save a bit overnight you're in for a breakfast treat. Good romaine will stand up to the dressing without wilting, so you can have a crunchy, bracingly fishy/garlicky breakfast of cheesy salad with deliciously soggy dressing-soaked croutons. It sounds a bit weird, but any time there are leftovers ewilhelm and I have near knock-down drag-outs over who gets to eat them with breakfast.
Let me know what you think!