Almost Classic Caesar
🎵good in a glass, good on green(s), good on raw carrots and celery 🎶
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I have made caesar salad for years, but rarely do I think of it as “I’m making a Caesar Salad.” I think of it mostly in terms of “I’m making a salad with my favorite flavors to dress greens in, which is lemon, garlic, anchovy, and mustard.” Just so happens, well, that’s A Caesar, (allegedly) created by an Italian man (named Caesar) living and operating restaurants in Mexico (Tijuana, to be exact). Like many classic recipes that become canon, it’s got a great origin story, full of mythology, and they-said/they-said about who, exactly, “invented it.” Related, did you know you can’t copyright a recipe? Integrity is all we have!
It’s not a secret that I don’t care for creamy salad dressing. Since I was old enough to know what salad is, in the battle of Ranch vs. Italian, it’s been Italian every time (for private journaling later: was Paul Newman a part of my sexual awakening?). Ranch is for dipping, Italian is for dressing. These are my public beliefs, a hill I will die on.
So yes, many Caesar salad dressings feel too creamy to me. I have been known to order a Caesar salad at a bad restaurant and order dressing on the side, so I can dip my lettuce into the dressing rather than risk my lettuce being drowned in thinned-out mayonnaise. This is who I am. Did you all just unsubscribe? The exception being (and there’s always an exception): the Caesar I make for myself, my friends, my lovers.
The dressing is low on the creamy scale– yes, there are egg yolks for proper emulsification, but I keep the cheese separate, applying it on the leaves post-dressing. It’s powerfully acidic, garlicky and of course, heavy on our favorite friends of the sea: anchovies. Because it feels right and it really does bring things to the level of brininess this salad deserves, there are also finely chopped capers (which can be used in place of anchovies if you’re not “doing” anchovies).
When it comes to the lettuce, using only romaine hearts is nice, but I also don’t mind the larger, flimsier dark green leaves making an appearance. They soften nicely under the dressing in a way I find pleasing between bites of the crisp pale green hearts, creating a good variety of texture (my reason for living). That said, there’s no reason you should keep things traditional. I would argue one of the better lettuces for this dressing is actually bitter radicchio, endive, escarole, or whatever Instagram-friendly pink-colored leaf everyone seems to be falling over themselves for these days. Use kale for all I kale. Whatever you do, the leaves should be torn (or cut) into large-ish pieces, never chopped into bite-sized pieces.
And AS FOR THE CROUTONS, well, you may notice they are very small. So small, in fact, you might call them bread crumbs (they are bread crumbs). Yes, I prefer a million tiny salty crispy croutons bathed in toasted garlic anchovy oil coating each leaf in crunchiness to mouth-impaling boulders, I mean croutons, so sue me.
Thank you for subscribing, and see you tomorrow for a rare TWO NEWSLETTER WEEK for Home Movies Tuesday. Hold onto those anchovies, don’t toss your capers, and please, stock up on Parmesan, because whether or not it was intentional (it wasn’t), tomorrow we are rolling into a very Caesar salad-esque Pantry Pasta, rounding the Things That Taste Like Caesar Salad Trilogy.
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