Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hail Caesar!

My brother-in-law, Domenico, loves salad and his favourite is a garlicky, anchovy and bacon laden Caesar.  Regardless of the ingredient list, which IS long for salad.. it's 'easy as' but so rich that I rarely make it. Occasionally though, as an accompaniment to a pizza night, a barbeque (grilled rib-eyes or herb lemon marinated chicken kebabs), as a bed for grilled prawns, or Dom's 50th Birthday, this is the salad I go for.

Cos (romaine) lettuce is THE green for Caesar.  Well-chilled, crisp leaves are the perfect foil for the richness of the substantial dressing: an egg yolk and oil concoction.

No store bought, dry, bland toothbreaking croutons here.  It's so simple to rub seasoned wheat bread with garlic, spray down with olive oil and cut into cubes then brown in a 180C oven (or under the grill, watch closely!) until tan and toasty.  Just make sure that these are added last as the dressing will quickly be the undoing of your efforts.

Bacon.  Good streaky bacon.  Use a brand (or butchers bacon) with a short ingredient list for best flavour. Although I've seen recipes for Caesar without this little extra, I always use it.  Fried or oven baked until crisp then crumbled over the greens, bacon is a very complimentary and savoury addition.  Back in the day when all that came out of fried bacon was fat (and not the virtual ocean of salty water released by some supermarket brands), my auntie (moderation not being in her vocabulary) used to fry the croutons in the rendered bacon fat.  Yay!  They tasted great but I'm happy with my olive oil.

And the cheese.  Parmigiano reggiano (and nothing but), grated or shaved over the top, is essential.

The dressing (this makes enough dressing for 2 good sized heads of cos):
  • 2-3 large cloves of coarsely chopped garlic (for a less pungent flavour, you could roast them or use a combination of raw and roasted),
  • a generous teaspoon of dijon mustard,
  • a dash of worcestershire sauce,
  • a teaspoon of red wine vinegar (any wine or cider vinegar really),
  • a few tablespoons (2-3) of lemon juice (to taste)
  • a couple of anchovy fillets (to taste)
  • a few tablespoons (3-4) of finely ground parmigiano reggiano, and
  • a whole egg (the egg can be added raw or placed in water and brought to a boil for 1 minute and scraped out of its shell).
Using a stick blender, I add the oil (1/2 c or more to preference) and when blended, I stir in another tablespoon of finely ground parmigiano reggiano for texture. The dressing can easily be tweaked to personal taste. You might have noticed that I didn't list anchovies as optional (as most recipes do) and I would encourage even non-anchovy lovers to try them here where they enrich this dressing with their subtle savoury saltiness. A little salt would probably be required if not using them.

Immediately before serving, dress the washed and torn cos with the crumbled bacon and croutons, mix and garnish with a few shards of (or more grated) Parmigiano reggiano.

Buon cinquantesimo Domenico!

4 comments:

Hillary said...

Yum! I am a huge Caesar salad fan but it never tastes as good at home. Thanks for this recipe!

Mary said...

Hi Hillary,

After this, I am a total convert to the homemade version. Hope this works for you too!

Amy said...

This dressing recipe was delicious and easy! A keeper for future use, for sure.

Mary said...

Thanks Amy, glad you enjoyed it.