I love Caesar Salad. But ordinary combinations of Lettuce, Dressing and Croutons just didn't complete the entire meal for me. I needed MORE. And too many "Caesar Salads" just taste like bitter Parmesan Cheese.
So I shamelessly ripped off about 20 different recipes for what I thought was the best thing from each.
A few requirements:
No RAW egg. My mom uses raw/ coddled eggs, and while her salad is yummy, just the idea is a turnoff for me.
No huge hunks of anchovy. My mom uses an ENTIRE can of anchovies to make hers. Again, yummy but not what I wanted.
Has to be able to be made in as few dishes/ pans as possible. Because I am lazy.
Croutons have to be AMAZING. Just because. Hot, crunchy goodness.
Step 1: Assemble the Minions! Ingredients & Tools Too...
You need the following tools and stuff to make this. There are probably other ways of doing it. If it makes you happy, do them.
1) Non stick frying pan. I use the one I have, an elderly Calaphon gifted to me years ago. This is used to make the (diet busting) croutons.
2) Salad bowl. Being a salad elitist I have a wooden one. I suppose ones made of plastic could be used by lesser gourmets.
3) Salad Spinner (or an alternate way to get the lettuce as dry as humanly possible).
4) Small mix bowl & whisk.
5) Plastic cutting board and knives. I have a "Santuku" and bread knife.
6) Cheese Rasp thing. Mine looks like this but I think it's actually a generic knockoff.
1) Head of romaine lettuce. I just get the stuff in the three pack plastic bags. Wash, rip into bite piece sized pieces (discarding any tough or icky leaves, or huge ribs). Put into the spinner and dry the heck out of them. Dry leaves hold the dressing MUCH better. And the little leaves in the center are the best part. I usually spin the leaves. Let them sit for 10 mimnutes, empty out the spinner bowl thing below the spinny basket, and then spin them again. It's AMAZING how much water comes from lettuce you just let "colander dry."
2) Small loaf of french bread (say a 10" section) or a darn hoagie bun thing. In extremis, I have used a couple hotdog buns.
3) Lemon juice. I just juice an entire lemon and save the rest of the juice in an old spice jar (NOT an "Old Spice" jar, but a jar that used to hold cream of tartar or some such thing. Glass is better.). Use leftover juice in a couple days for best results. You need one FULL tablespoon (I pour quite generously because I like extra lemon in the salad, YMMV).
4) Hellmans Mayonaisse. I use a HEAPING tablespoon. Other brands might be as just as good for you, but I like this kind. NOTE: Mayo is NOT something you can swap out "salad dressing" for, IMHO. Salad dressing is Satans condiment.
5) "Country Dijon Grey Poupon" is sorta chunky looking. You need a teaspoon. Like a Porsche ©, there is no substitute.
6) Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. A scant tablespoon. I have seen other brands, but never had the slightest urge to try any of them.
7) Garlic infused EVOO. Step 2 will tell you how to make this if you don't already have this in your fridge (you savage). You need a drizzle of this. Fo' schizzle.
8) 2 or 3 anchovies straight from the jar/ can. I like the jarred kind. And I eat this stuff often enough that leftovers don't "turn" in the fridge. Sometimes the oil in the jar gels and all you have to do is let the, closed tight, jar sit in some room temperature water for a few minutes and it goes back to oil.
9) Fresh ground pepper. I have been known to use just "ground pepper" from a can and can barely taste the difference despite being a salad snob.
10) Red Onion. Some paper thin slices. Get rid of the icky outermost skin part.
11) Half a big(ish) RIPE avocado or all of a little one. Diced into 1/2 inch by 1 inch pieces. You can save the rest of the avocado for tomorrow by putting it into a plastic Tupperware thing of appropriate size and drizzling some of the extra lemon juice over the exposed insides.
12) Black Olives. I tend to get a bit lazy here and use the canned pitted ones. Slice a dozen or so into halves. If you are energetic, or have some lying around, a half dozen of the "fresh" kind of Kalamata unpitted olives are great. To prepare them, slice them on one side to break the skin, smash them with the side of your knife, pull out the pit, and quarter them. They have a stronger taste so we don't use so many. But whatever makes you happy.
13) Good quality Parmesan or Reggiano cheese. The kind that is like a little triangular brick NOT the green can stuff. Grate about 2 or 3 tablespoons of this. I tend to just hold the grater over the salad (pre crouton) and put down what looks like the right amount. Note that if you use the "rasp" thing, you have more volume because the shreds are finer (like hairs). Anyway. Use just barely enough. You can always add more... If you REALLY think you'll want more, just put a little bowl full of extra cheese in the center of the table.
Step 2: Garlic Infused EVOO
EVOO is what Rachel Ray, TV cooking lady, calls Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I like it. If some other kind of oil is your fave, GO FOR IT.
1) Buy some good quality EVOO in a glass jar. Use up about a quarter to half of it.
2) Peel and smash a half dozen cloves of garlic.
3) Remove the plastic spout thingy from the EVOO, drop the smashed garlic cloves into the oil and replace the spout and cap.
4) Put into the fridge. Let the garlic flavor infuse the EVOO. If the oil clouds up and "gels" just take the bottle out of the fridge, let it sit in some water until the outer layer liquefies, and use that. Put bottle back into fridge.
The EVOO will definitely gel eventually. And the garlic gets kinda ooky looking. Use common sense here. I use up a half bottle of this stuff in about 2 months and have never gotten the least belly ache.
IF the oil is ever left out at room temperature for a long time, toss it and make some more. DON'T play games with guessing if it went "off."
Step 3: Croutons
Turn the heat under your frying pan onto medium low. (YOU need to know your own stove!).
1) Slice the bread into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes.
2) Put into your frying pan.
3) Lightly drizzle about one half as much garlic EVOO as you think right over the cubes, Toss them until the EVOO is distributed fairly evenly.
4) Shake the pan of croutons fairly often so they don't burn on one side.
4.5) You don't need much EVOO, but if you need to add a little more EVOO do so. It's better to add a tiny bit later than have them be too oily because you added too much early on.
5) The goal is for the crutons to be finished LAST into light brown goodness, so you can slide them, hot from the pan, directly atop the salad right before you serve it. You might have to turn up the temp A LITTLE at the end to speed things along a little. Don't go crazy and burn the croutons!
6) I have NEVER had too many croutons. You will tend to pick them out of the pan "just for a taste test" so you end up with fewer than you started with.
Step 4: Dressing
- FINELY dice/ smash into paste your anchovies. Scrape them off the cutting board and put them into the mixing bowl. You can scrape up any stray anchovy oil that dripped off the filets and put that into the bowl too.
- Add a heaping TBL of Mayo
- Add a TBL of Worcestershire sauce
- Add a TBL of Lemon juice
- Add a (heaping) TSP of the mustard.
- Dash of pepper.
Put it aside until it's time comes. Yes, it's pretty tangy/ tasty just as it is.
Step 5: Assembling the Salad of the Gods.
Into your wooden salad bowl (for us purist gourmonds) put your lettuce.
Pour around a third of your dressing over the lettuce and toss gently.
Add the next third and toss again. Doing this in several stages assures us the dressing is lightly coating the lettuce uniformly.
Add the chunks of avocado. Spread them around so they don't stick to each other.
Add the paper thin slices of red onion. Spread them around also.
Pour the rest of the dressing over the salad and toss. You need to use your skilled and discerning eye to know when a "light coating" is there so you don't glop too much onto it. You can ADD more, but subtracting too much is hard.
THEN add the Black Olive chunklets. If you add them earlier they end up on the bottom of the bowl...
NOW, wait until the croutons are at their peak of pan fried crispy deliciousness. And everyone is assembled, ready to eat.
Pour the croutons from the frying pan directly into the salad bowl. Toss a couple times.
EAT. RIGHT AWAY! The warm croutons with the salty dressing & olives, crunchy lettuce, spicy onion and creamy avocado will make you start planning on when you can make this again.
I have been known to make one of these (large) salads and eat the entire bowl all by myself.
Step 6: Options
1) Toss in some chicken, turkey, or roast beef leftovers (sans gravy, thank you). Umm
2) Make the dressing and drizzle a THIN line of it over roast beef slices as an alternative to horseradish. Or use it as as a dip for crudités.
3) Tell me what other ways you devise to eat this stuff.