Is this post technically a Caesarian section?
One of the happy by-products of making so many macaroons is a surfeit of egg yolks, and I certainly wasn't about to let something with such rich potential go to waste. I mulled over a number of possibilities before settling on two dishes: one, which ended up an unmitigated flop, I'll discuss in my next post (it wasn't pretty!), the other became today's triumphant salad celebration. I am, of course, talking about my family's stupendously good Caesar salad dressing (as interpreted by moi).
This salad dressing is special to me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have very fond memories of devouring heaps of this salad at family get-togethers, where I could always count on a nice big bowl of it sitting near the corner of my grandmother's massive dining room table. This Caesar had it all: creaminess, garlic, saltiness, an acidic bite, lots of crunchy croutons, and just the slightest hint of anchovy.
A couple of months ago, I was overcome by a craving for this very salad, so I asked my grandmother for the recipe. The very next day I whipped up a batch. I'm proud to say my wife now craves the salad as much as I do.
By the way, when it comes to Caesar dressing I am a stickler about one detail: anchovies. That's right, as far as I'm concerned a Caesar without anchovies is not even worthy of the name. Cut back, fine, use anchovy paste if you must, but under no circumstances should this dressing be made without the inimitable, salty, fishy note that anchovies provide. So let it be said, so let it be done.
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
dry mustard to taste
anchovy paste or 1 whole anchovy, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, finely grated, plus more for serving
squeeze of lemon juice
2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and thoroughly dried and ripped into large pieces
croutons (see recipe below)
4 slices best quality bacon, crispy and crumbled
In a large salad bowl or food processor, add red wine vinegar, egg yolk, sugar, salt, dry mustard, anchovy, garlic, tabasco, parmigiano, lemon juice, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Add oils slowly while whisking vigorously until ingredients form an emulsion.
Combine romaine leaves and dressing in salad bowl, and toss together gently. Add croutons and bacon. Serve with additional parmesan, salt, and pepper as desired.
10-15 cm section, baguette (stale is fine, so is frozen)
Preheat the broiler.
Cut the baguette into approximately 3 cm cubes and spread on a baking sheet. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Place under broiler. Remove when bread is lightly browned, approximately 2-4 minutes.
I find this Caesar dressing slightly more acidic and slightly looser than most restaurant versions, and I prefer it that way. There's something about a Caesar salad that's covered in creamy white paste that's a little unappetizing. Our version has become something very different from that restaurant standard. It now has so much anchovy -- three whole ones last time -- that the dressing was very definitely dark and had a pronounced fishy tone, as well as enough pepper to cause a pleasant buzz in the back of the throat.
Our tinkering demonstrates the best part of this Caesar salad dressing recipe: it is ideal for culinary improvisation, especially for kitchen novices. I don't know that my wife and I have yet prepared this dressing the same way twice. Want more garlic? Do it. Like your dressing creamier? Add another egg yolk and process or whisk longer. Need a meal? Add some leftover chicken. Like your dressing to have more bite? Add more tabasco, omit the dry mustard, and substitute one teaspoon of good quality Dijon mustard -- I recommend a purveyor from the St. Lawrence Market, Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard, which makes some of the finest homemade mustard anywhere (read a review here).
In short, play with the recipe and make it your own, but don't forget the anchovies.