It is THE classic salad. Just a few ingredients combined with exactness to create a luscious, creamy, salty dressing that is the counterpoint to the crisp lettuce. When classic Ceasar salad is done right, it is wonderful and when it is done wrong, it is beyond disappointing.
Restaurant lore attributes the creation of this salad to the chef at Hotel Ceasar’s in Tijuana. This was during the days of prohibition when alcohol was illegal in the United States, so the rich and powerful would cross the border to eat, drink and be merry. The chef is reported to have run out of ingredients one holiday evening and needing to feed the customers, made up the recipe with what he had on hand and to make it seem impressive, tossed this new salad in front of the customers.
It was an instant hit and soon became a staple in restaurants from Hollywood to New York City. The original recipe is said to have not included anchovies, but the tiny fish really do add that umami flavor to the dressing.
Anchovies verses Anchovy paste
Anchovies add that punch of flavor that is briny without being fishy. It is subtle and powerful at the same time. They come packed in oil or vinegar as fillets or are processed into a paste which is blended with vinegar and spices. Oil-packed anchovies are found in jars or small tin containers. The whole fish must be blended (bones and all) to be incorporated into the dressing. You can find anchovies in the grocery store either by the canned tomatoes or by the canned tuna. You will need to look carefully as thy containers are small and the store will probably only carry one brand. This recipe calls for 2-3 fillets finely minced to produce 1-1/2 teaspoon of anchovies which is 1/3 to 1/2 of the container. (You can store any extra in a zip-close bag in the freezer. When you next want to make Ceasar dressing, you can mince them frozen, no need to defrost.)
If you can’t deal with smashing anchovies, the option of anchovy paste is available. Purist claim that commercial anchovy paste tastes fishier and metallic rather than the briny and savory taste whole fillets impart. On the other side of the argument is that the paste is just that, paste and has no small gritty bones to ruin the smooth dressing. The opened tube can be stored for months in the refrigerator ready for your next recipe. It is convenient to use as you just squeeze out what you need and it is ready to be incorporated. Whether you choose to use anchovies or anchovy paste is completely up to you. But they are a necessary component to Ceasar dressing
Coddled Eggs or Mayonnaise
The next great debate in Ceasar dressing is the use of egg yolks that have been coddled or the using mayonnaise to create the creamy texture and mouth-feel.
Salmonella bacteria can be found on cracked or improperly washed eggs. And while the lemon juice in the dressing raises the pH level to effectively eliminate the bacteria. The steps of using pasteurized eggs or coddling the eggs briefly before using will make the eggs safe. There are some, however, who aren’t comfortable with raw eggs even with the precautions. Mayonnaise is the alternative, although it does slightly change the taste of the classic dressing.
So whichever option you decide to use. Try out this classic dressing recipe. Comment which option you choose and how it turned out below. I’d love to hear from you.Print
Crisp romaine lettuce drizzled with a homemade Caesar dressing. Toasted croutons and creamy avocado chunks will make your meal burst with flavor.
- 2–3 anchovy fillets, finely minced to make a paste (about 1–1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 egg yolk, pasteurized or coddled (seee notes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried and torn into 1-1/2” pieces (about 4 cups)
- 4 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1–1/2 cups croutons (homemade are the best)
- 2 tablespoons shaved or shredded parmesan cheese
- To coddle the egg: carefully add the whole egg, in its shell, into boiling water for 40 seconds. Remove the egg from the hot water, and run under cold water for 15 seconds to stop the cooking process. Crack the egg and separate the yolk, discard the egg white.
- Finely mince the anchovies and garlic with a knife until a smooth paste is produced. If using anchovy paste, mince the garlic alone until it forms a paste.
- In a medium bowl, add the anchovy and garlic paste, egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire Sauce and whisk well for one minute to make a smooth airy mixture.
- Measure the olive oil and vegetable oil into a liquid measuring cup.
- Whisking constantly and quickly, slowly drizzle a stream of the combined oils in a steady stream, making sure you don’t add the oil faster than you can whisk it. It should take about three minutes to incorporate the oil into the dressing. (You know that it has emulsified when the dressing is thick and creamy in color.)
- Stir in the cheese, taste and add the salt and pepper to taste. Store the dressing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. If the dressing separates after resting, whisk it for another minute before tossing with the lettuce.
- In a large salad bowl, add torn romaine lettuce. Top with sliced mushrooms and avocado chunks. Drizzle desired amount of dressing and toss to lightly coat. Add shaved or shredded parmesan and top with croutons.
- Serve immediately
Coddled egg may be substituted with 1/4 cup mayonnaise and reduce the vegetable oil to 1-1/2 tablespoons.
You can process a double batch of the dressing in a small blender. Combine the ingredients and with the blender on, slowly drizzle the combine oils into the blender and process until thick and creamy. Add parmesan cheese and pulse until incorporated.
You can make the dressing ahead and prepare the letuce and mushrooms. Just before serving, cut up the avocado and toss with the dressing. Garnish with parmesan cheese and croutons.
- Serving Size: 10 ounces
Keywords: Ceasar salad