Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Ode to Caesar Salad.



First thing you want to do is pick a nice head or heads of romaine lettuce. Pick off all of the outer tough leaves (these will be the leaves that are most dark green). You will want to remove these because they are tough, slightly chewy and not of as a delicate flavor as the inside leaves. Then with a very sharp knife cut the top ¾ " to 1 ½ " off the top of the head. You will then cut twice lengthwise and three or four times crossways depending on the length of the lettuce. Discard the core. Thoroughly wash and pat the lettuce dry with paper towels. In a separate container layer several pieces of lettuce followed by a paper towel until all of the lettuce is covered. You may set the lettuce aside in the fridge for use later. It is very important to remember that the lettuce must be completely dry in order to allow the dressing to cling to the leaves.

Always remember to use a wood bowl (large) and wood spoons when preparing the dressing. Do not use soap when you clean the bowl after each use. Use only warm/hot water and wipe or lightly scrub the bowl clean. You may let the bowl air dry after this. Let me digress a moment about croutons and their importance in the salad. A good crouton is a critical component in Caesar salad. A good crouton heightens the diner's enjoyment of the salad, providing a crispy crunchy contrast to the dish. I prefer to use a sourdough loaf or round. Any good baguette or hearty bread will do. You want to cut the bread into large cubes, approximately 1" x 1". Put the cubes of bread in a large mixing bowl and toss them with the following ingredients; olive oil (enough to completely coat but not soak), minced garlic, fresh cracked pepper, paprika, salt, and parmesan cheese if you prefer (I do). Toast the croutons on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about twenty-five to thirty-five minutes turning every seven or eight minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool and remove for use later.

In the wood bowl place the garlic, which has been coarsely diced, and begin to mash with the wooden spoons. After the garlic is completely mashed you may add one egg for every two persons that are eating the salad. Emulsify the garlic and egg. Next add the Dijon mustard; approximately two teaspoons for every egg. Finally to the emulsified mixture add anchovies. Anchovies are a tricky subject in Caesar salad circles. Anchovies are a necessary, crucial ingredient in the recipe but they are a polarizing food item. I have found that most people who claim they do not like anchovies cannot tell anchovies are in the recipe when properly emulsified and incorporated. Make sure you use anchovies; I would suggest one or two filets per person that will be eating the salad. Begin to add olive oil to the mixture, working it in rapidly and thoroughly with one of the spoons. Make sure you do not add oil faster than you can incorporate it into the dressing. The mixture will soon become thick if you are preparing the dressing correctly. Each egg yolk can absorb about one-half of a cup of oil. After you have incorporated the olive oil into the emulsion you may add lemon juice and Worcestershire to taste. Add fresh cracked black pepper to the dressing. Taste the dressing and correct seasonings. The addition of the Worcestershire and lemon juice to the dressing will thin it out slightly but you want to still have a fairly thick dressing to work with. Add grated parmesan to taste. Not too much as you will be adding more during the toss. The dressing is now ready to be tossed with the lettuce and croutons.

In the bowl which you have prepared the dressing add the dry lettuce, croutons, more cracked pepper, and additional parmesan cheese. When tossing the salad use your hands. They are the best tools for the job. Not only will they gently handle the lettuce they will also make sure all lettuce leaves are completely coated. Begin tossing the ingredients together until all leaves are coated. Arrange salad on a chilled salad plate and garnish with cracked pepper and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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