Caesar Salad and Dressing

Head of Romaine Lettuce

By Cat, March 10, 2018 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

This is a salad I don’t make very often, but when I do…..mmmmm. The anchovies in the dressing are what make its flavor so unique and wonderful. The Classic version assembles the dressing and salad at the same time – for a showy presentation; the pre-made dressing version is less showy but just as delicious.

A local restaurant/bakery where I live (Grateful Bread) just added Caesar Salad to their menu. They use a commercial dressing that contains soy oil (probably GMO and rancid), which I avoid like the plague. I got their permission to bring my own dressing, which is what prompted me to write this post.

I include both the classic version and the pre-made dressing version in this post.

Romaine

Not long after I posted this article, the news about food poisoning traced to Romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. Until this problem is resolved, I encourage readers to use a different kind of lettuce or greens, or Romaine from a trusted local source, for this delicious salad. Gourmet Sleuth suggests iceberg lettuce (less flavor but crisp) or butter lettuce (softer) as alternatives; or perhaps use a mix of these two.

Classic Caesar Salad

This recipe is adapted from Julia Child’s recipe on Epicurious (2), You might be tempted to use any lettuce, but Romaine is the classic lettuce for this recipe.

Julia’s version doesn’t include the anchovies, but I prefer to include them as anchovy paste, which has a milder flavor than whole anchovy.

For the cheese, I do not recommend using a shaker of Parmesan – it just is not the same as the real deal. Buy a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese and grate it fresh before serving.

Some recipes use Worcestershire sauce, as in Julia’s and the Genius Kitchen recipes. Others use Dijon mustard or both. I consider these as optional ingredients.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Croutons:
  • see recipe below
  • Dressing:
  • 2 large egg yolks, or 1 large whole egg, coddled, or see below for instructions (preferably eggs from pastured hens)
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more
  • 1 – 3 tsp anchovy paste (optional) *
  • Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • ⅓ – ½ cup real olive oil
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Romano, if you prefer)
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lettuce:
  • 3 romaine hearts (about 1 lb), leaves separated
  • Equipment:
  • saucepan
  • egg coddler (if using just the yolks)
  • mixing bowl or large salad bowl

‘* Note about health concern regarding anchovies: see reference (4) or my Foods (About) page, under ‘Fish and Shellfish.’

Method:

  1. Prep: Coddle egg or yolks (see instructions, below), if desired.
  2. Grate the Parmigiano (or Romano).
  3. Remove outer leaves of whole Romaine head and save for another use. Separate and wash leaves of the Romain hearts for use in this salad.
  4. Prepare croutons (see recipe below)
  5. Dress Salad just before serving: Have ready all the dressing ingredients, the prepped Romaine, plus a salad fork and spoon for tossing.
  6. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of olive oil over the romaine leaves and toss to coat: lift the leaves from the bottom and turn them towards you, so they tumble over like a wave; turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the lift-and-turn; repeat as needed until all are thoroughly coated.
  7. Sprinkle oiled leaves with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper; toss once or twice.
  8. Add lemon juice, and several drops of the Worcestershire (optional), and toss again. Taste for seasoning, and add more, if needed.
  9. Crack the coddled egg or spoon coddled yolks onto the seasoned romaine leaves; add anchovy paste (optional) and several drops of Worcestershire sauce, and toss to break up the egg/yolks and coat the leaves.
  10. Sprinkle on the cheese, and toss briefly. Add the croutons and toss again, just to mix them into the salad.
  11. Serve: Arrange a portion on each individual plate, garnish with a bit of grated parmigiana, if desired, and serve.

Caesar Salad using Pre-Made Caesar Dressing

This version is adapted from Bon Appetite (3), and Genius Kitchen (4). These use fresh egg yolks (not coddled), but I prefer to coddle them. See also my homemade Caesar Dressing with Commercial Avo Mayo.

You can make the dressing up to 1 day in advance if you store it in the refrigerator.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Croutons:
  • see recipe below
  • Dressing
  • 2 – 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained; OR 1 – 3 tsp anchovy paste *
  • 1 – 2 small garlic cloves
  • pinch of Unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg yolks, or 1 large whole egg, coddled, or see below for instructions  (preferably eggs from pastured hens)
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more
  • ¾ tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • ⅓ – ½ cup real olive oil
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Romano, if you prefer)
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lettuce:
  • 3 romaine hearts (about 1 lb), leaves separated
  • Equipment:
  • saucepan
  • egg coddler (if using just the yolks)
  • baking sheet or small cast iron skillet (for croutons)
  • mixing bowl or large salad bowl

‘* Note about health concern regarding anchovies: see reference (4) or my Foods (About) page, under ‘Fish and Shellfish.’

Method:

  1. Prep: Coddle egg or yolks (see instructions, below), if desired.
  2. Grate the Parmigiano (or Romano).
  3. Remove outer leaves of whole Romaine head and save for another use. Separate and wash leaves of the Romain hearts for use in this salad.
  4. Prepare croutons (see recipe below)
  5. Dressing:
    • Chop together anchovy fillets, garlic, and pinch of salt. Use the side of a knife blade to mash into a paste, then scrape into a medium bowl. NOTE: if using anchovy paste instead of chopped fillets, stir the paste into the garlic mix.
    • Whisk in whole egg or yolks (preferably coddled), 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and optional Dijon mustard and/or Worcestershire sauce.
    • Adding drop by drop to start, gradually whisk in olive oil; whisk until dressing is thick and glossy.
    • Whisk in grated cheese (or reserve the cheese to toss with the prepped dressing and Romaine leaves when you assemble the salad)
    • Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Set aside until ready to assemble.
  6. Assemble: gently toss the lettuce, dressing, and reserved cheese together in the salad bowl.
  7. Serve: Arrange a portion on individual plates, scatter the croutons all around, and serve. Garnish with a bit of grated Parmigiano if desired.

Coddling the Egg or Egg Yolk

Vintage Egg Coddler

(photo right, is from What’s Cooking America (1))

See also Coddle an egg.

Most recipes for the Caesar Dressing use raw egg. But I once got salmonella from raw egg so now I coddle them. Julia Child’s recipe (2) uses a whole egg coddled in its shell, but if you want to use egg yolks for a richer version, you can put the yolks into an egg-coddler (photo, below).

Coddling is an old-fashioned way to heat the egg just enough to kill any bacteria in the egg, while retaining its liquid nature for use in recipes. My Dad used to eat the coddled eggs just as they were.

Julia Child’s recipe for Caesar Salad (2), uses the method for coddling a whole egg in its shell, which I retain here. If you want to coddle 2 egg yolks rather than a whole egg, see  Coddling an Egg. See also Wiki-How (5), for illustrations and more detail.

Since writing this post, I’ve seen ads for a silicone cup for cooking eggs, similar to using a coddler. I have never used this (I’m skeptical about the safety of silicone for cooking) so do not know simmering time(s) for this device.

See also Coddling an Egg for instructions.

  1. To coddle a whole egg (2):
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer.
  3. Pierce the large end of the egg shell with a pushpin to prevent cracking. Place whole egg into the simmering water and simmer for exactly 1 minute. Remove egg and cool a bit before using.
  4. To coddle two yolks or 1 whole egg using a small coddler (5): see  Coddling an Egg. The amount of time to coddle eggs in a cioddler varies by size of egg and how many in the coddler (5):
    • 5 minutes for one medium egg or 2 yolks in a small coddler
    • 5½ minutes for one large egg or 2 yolks in a small coddler
    • 6½ minutes for two medium eggs in a large coddler
    • 8½ minutes for two large eggs in a large coddler

Croutons

You need these for both salad versions; you can either toast them in the oven or in a cast iron skillet. My version is adapted from all three of my sources (2, 3, 4).

  1. Mince garlic clove, sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt, and crush with side of a chef’s knife.
  2. Tear bread into pieces (rather than cutting it, to ensure nooks and crannies will catch the dressing and add texture).
  3. Toast (2 options):
    • In oven preheated to 375°:  Toss bread with 1 Tbsp olive oil and crushed, salted garlic on a baking sheet; add pepper if desired. Bake, tossing occasionally, until golden, 10–15 minutes.
    • OR in a small cast iron pan: Pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil on the crushed garlic and mash again with the knife, rubbing and pressing to make a soft purée. Scrape the purée into the frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and warm over low-medium heat. Add the croutons and toss for 1 – 2 minutes to infuse them with the garlic oil, then remove from the heat.

References:

  1. Photo: whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/CoddledEgg.htm
  2. Julia’s recipe: epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/julias-caesar-salad-105469
  3. Bon Appetite: bonappetit.com/recipe/classic-caesar-salad
  4. Genius Kitchen: geniuskitchen.com/recipe/caesar-salad-dressing-83436
  5. Using a coddler: wikihow.com/Coddle-an-Egg

About Cat

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