Crisp green leaves, crunchy garlicky croutons and flavoursome creamy dressing: the Caesar salad is a triumph of simplicity. Satisfying as a starter in the original form dreamt up in 1924 by Italian chef Caesar Cardini in his restaurant in Mexico, it can easily be transformed into a meal in itself with the addition of strips of smoked chicken.
Simple as it is, the success of the salad depends on a really good dressing. Once you’ve tasted it freshly home-made, you’ll never be happy with bottled dressings again. New York restaurants often make a show-piece of a Caesar salad whisked up at your table in front of you, but at home you can make it easier on yourself by using a food processor if you prefer.
Recipe for Caesar Salad
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
25g / 1 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cos lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
For the croutons:
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 thick slices of white bread cut into cubes
First of all make the croutons. You could buy them ready made but if you are going to the trouble of making a really good dressing then the croutons need to live up to it, and home-made are much tastier than bought ones. Crush the garlic and toss with the olive oil and salt, then add the bread cubes and mix until well coated. Bake at 175C / 350F until golden, which should be about 10 minutes. Alternatively you can fry them in the oil until golden on all sides.
Now for the dressing:
Bring a pot of water to the boil, and boil the egg for just 45 seconds. This is what is called coddling an egg. Take it out of the water and put it in cold water to cool.
Mix the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, anchovy (if using), capers, and mustard, either in a processor or by hand in a bowl. Add the coddled egg and whisk until smooth.
The next step is important to get right. The oil needs to be added in a slow but steady stream as you whisk. If you are using a processor, add it in a trickle down the funnel while it is switched on. If you are hand whisking, just keep one hand beating as the other pours the oil in. This will make sure the oil amalgamates into the dressing without separating.
Serve in a large salad bowl, a wooden one is the classic choice, with the lettuce torn into rough pieces and tossed with the dressing, parmesan cheese and croutons. It should be served immediately, while the leaves and croutons are still crisp.
Love Caesar Salad but not ready to make it for yourself? Why not try the Caesar Salad at Latino Restaurant in Nottingham.