History of the Caesar Salad:
This popular dish was originally created in 1924 by Italian chef Caesar Cardini at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico and was prepared and served right at the table. If you have never experienced "the show" that goes with table side presentation, you don't know what you missed. What an opportunity for a waiter to show off, mixing and whisking to the delight of the patrons!
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s we used to enjoy Mr. Vincente of Vincente’s Restaurant® in Wilmington, DE making his terrific Caesar salad tableside. What a showman he was, and his meals were excellent, what today we would call "Best of Breed."
What about the use of raw egg in caesar salad? The same fear-mongering idiots who tell you not to drink eggnog will harp about the use of raw or partially cooked eggs in any dish. Ignore them. They continuously confuse possibility with probability and always lean towards the scary side.
Though some recipes use a raw egg, a coddled egg will give the dressing a smoother, creamier texture. Also, the emulsion formed in the final mixing of the ingredients will hold, ergo not break down, for up to a week in your refrigerator. Bring a one quart pan half filled with water to a fast boil and gently place an extra large or jumbo egg into it and cook for only 45 or 60 seconds based on the size of the egg. Then break the egg into a cool two quart bowl and whisk it quickly and thoroughly for thirty seconds to stop further cooking.
Ingredients: (4 generous or 6 average size portions)
For the croutons:
For the salad dressing: (I list all of Cardini's ingredients and note the ones I avoid)
Preparing the croutons - Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Crush the garlic cloves with the side of a chefs knife (be very careful) or with a garlic press. Slice the baguette or loaf of plain white bread and cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes.
Croutons - Combine the garlic, oil, salt, and bread cubes in a bowl. Mix until the cubes are coated evenly. Spread the coated cubes onto a baking sheet and bake until they are golden. (I think a light spraying with Pam® or olive oil spray before baking helps.) This should take about 10 minutes. Stir as necessary every few minutes to get even baking on all sides.
To make the salad - Bring a half filled one quart saucepan of water to a boil on high heat, then add the egg gently from a spoon and cook it for just 45 seconds if it is an extra large eggs or 60 seconds for a jumbo egg ... NO MORE! This is coddling the egg.
Remove the egg from the hot water. Break it into a cool two quart bowl and whisk it for 30 seconds.
Mix all the other ingredients in a blender. Blend them on medium or medium high speed until completely smooth, which should take about three minutes.
Add the blended ingredients to the whisked egg very slowly continuing to whisk with each addition until the mixture is perfectly blended. The coddled egg forms a stable emulsion with the other ingredients when this process is done correctly, and that will provide you a delicious dressing that will not separate even after a few days of refrigeration of leftovers.
Serving The Salad:
Tear/cut the romaine lettuce into 1 to 2 inch pieces and add them to a large bowl (wooden if you have one, and some chefs like to rub the inside of the wooden bowl with freshly cut garlic first). Let each guest put the amount of romaine they want into their individual serving bowl and add the amount of dressing they want and mix until the romaine leaves are evenly coated. Then add the Parmesan cheese in the amount wanted and mix again, then add the croutons, if wanted, and toss lightly.
Be sure to have a small plate with individual strips of anchovies on it, cut in half, for people who love anchovies with their caesar salad. Add the anchovie strips in the amount wanted on top of each individual serving of caesar salad.
If the romaine lettuce, croutons, cheese and dressing are kept separate from each other for making individual servings, then leftovers can be saved individually and refrigerated with no loss of individual flavor or texture, and then combined later to again serve what is essentially a freshly made salad. Conversely, if all the ingredients have been mixed together before serving the salad then storage of leftovers will result in less crisp lettuce and soggy croutons.