I’ve spent a lot of time, maybe too much, trying to figure out how to do this one thing absolutely right.
But I hesitate to say “too much.” How much time is too much time to spend perfecting something that ought to be perfected? I wonder about this, because I’ve been making various grades of mediocre caesar salads for a few years now. Always different, always imperfect in some new way. Always galvanizing some new flawed approach.
And as far as salads go, this is the one I need–and I use that word purposefully, need–to get right. This salad needs to soar. Because it is so frequently botched, so misunderstood, so canned and thoughtlessly thrown together, and its elements, every one of them, deeply perverted in their commonest forms: lumpy, congealed milky white dressing from a bottle; bagged, oversalted croutons; pre-shredded, flavorless Parmesan cheese; and carelessly torn Romaine lettuce.
And Americans love it, love this salad. Are content, tickled even, to eat this bagged, bottled, oversalted crap. And I don’t know why. But I do know that hardly anything in the world of food upsets me as much as a bad Caesar salad. And most Caesar salads out there are bad ones.
Now, my Caesar salad, which is not perfect, is at least very, very good, and its most recent incarnation is as close to perfect as I may ever get. I say this because after I made this salad, and ate it, the restless perfectionism in me, like a snarling cat, quieted for a moment. First it said, Delicious!!! And then it said, Ok, Angela. Good enough. You can stop now.
So if you’re like me, and you like your Caesars garlicky, lemony, and bold (bold, here, meaning not skimping on the anchovies), then you need–and I use that word purposefully, need–to try this salad, my favorite. I could eat it every day.
– Angela M.
A Very Good Caesar Salad
– 3 hearts of Romaine
- 8 garlic crostini (recipe below)
– Really good shaved Parmesan cheese
– 2 large egg yolks
– 1 can flat anchovy filets, finely chopped
– 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
– 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
– 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp filtered water
– 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- Kosher salt, black pepper
In a salad bowl, combine egg yolks, chopped anchovies, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce with a fork until a paste is formed. Slowly pour oil into the bowl while stirring briskly. Add filtered water, combine, and set aside.
Separate Romaine heart leaves and wash. This is a knife-and-fork salad; don’t tear the leaves. You can discard the largest green ones in order to keep everything at roughly the same size, or you can do what I do and cut them down to size. Pat the leaves dry, but not completely. It’s good to leave a little dampness.
Place leaves in salad bowl, on top of dressing, and season with Kosher salt. With a pair of wooden spoons (or, better, with your hands) gently toss the salad until every leaf is coated in a thin layer of dressing. Pile leaves onto four plates. Place two garlic crostinis on both sides of each salad, grind some fresh black pepper on top, and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese.
- 1 stale baguette
– Extra virgin olive oil
- Garlic powder
– Kosher salt, black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice the baguette on a sharp diagonal. Arrange on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, season on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake for 6-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bread, until golden brown.