Wednesday, February 6, 2008

a caesar salad big enough to swim in

I tend to think of Caesar salad as the sort of dish you only encounter when dining out. It's such a show-off dish at fine restaurants, prepared tableside and presented to the diner with a dramatic flourish. Even when Caesar salad isn't turned into a minor production, it's still a popular house specialty.* So it's rather discombobulating to prepare it at home. I think I'm still reeling from the shock. And I have my local supermarket to blame thank.

You see, I had plans to make salade frisée aux lardons. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make salade frisée aux lardons when you can find neither frisée nor lardons, nor anything resembling an acceptable substitute for either. My local supermarket kind of, well... sucks.

Granted, I'm being a little unfair. After all, it's not Whole Foods, and it can't do anything about the fact that it's located in Boston and not Paris. But it is very frustrating to not be able to make salade frisée aux lardons, or any approximation thereof, when you've spent the better part of Torts class thinking about crisp, bitter curlicues of lettuce and smoky little cubes of cured pork.

Coming up with a new salad idea was problematic. I didn't want mixed baby greens with apples and blue cheese, or spinach with almonds and strawberries, and even a rabbit would probably have turned up its nose at the arugula languishing in the herb section, so I didn't want arugula with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, either. I wanted something crisp and savory that could be made in a bowl large enough to swim in. I wanted Caesar salad.

So I bought hearts of romaine, a wedge of Parmesan, and a tin of anchovies, and figured I'd sort out the dressing by looking it up on Google. It turned out to be remarkably simple.

Caesar dressing, it turns out, it is basically mayonnaise, flavored with garlic and Worcestershire sauce (or anchovies, if you're not concerned about authenticity.) Tableside performances notwithstanding, it can be made in the blender with perfectly decent results.

I should have tried this ages ago. Damn the frisée. I'm off to buy more romaine. I need to make up for lost time.

Caesar Salad Big Enough To Swim In

Not authentic, just tasty.

(Serves four hungry people.)

Take six hearts of romaine and cut or tear into bite-size pieces. Dump them into the biggest salad bowl you've got. If that's not big enough, use a wok or frying pan, or even a stock pot, if necessary.

For the dressing, begin by bringing a pan of water to boil, then remove it from heat. Coddle two eggs by immersing them in the water for one minute. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Whisk in the juice from one lemon, six minced garlic cloves, and six mashed-up anchovies. Continue whisking, and pour in a generous glug of olive oil a little at a time, until the mixture looks creamy. It shouldn't be too thick. (You can also do this in a blender.)

Dress the romaine. Add a dusting of black pepper and a huge heap of freshly grated Parmesan. Toss. Serve with crusty bread.

Note: This doesn't contain croutons, because I don't like the commercial stuff, and I never seem to have any stale bread on hand to make them myself. Don't let that stop you from adding them, though.

*A great Caesar salad is better than sex. Great Caesar salad may be found at Frankie and Johnny's in Cape Neddick, Maine.


Katy said...

I always eat my bread before it goes stale too. :-) You can try drying it out in your oven at 200 degrees for a half hour or so, and then make it into bread crumbs or croutons!

PS -- Have you set up a feed yet? I can't see a way to subscribe...

adele said...


I think that might be a little too advanced for me. :P

Ann said...

I. Love. Caeser. Salad.

And I remember I, too, figured out how easy it is to make. Total revelation!