One of my all time favorites is Caesar Salad.
While the kind served in most restaurants is fine some chopped romaine lettuce topped with a drizzle of creamy "Caesar" dressing and a few sad croutons you can't beat a traditional Caesar Salad, prepared tableside at a fine restaurant.
Here's a little history. The Caesar Salad has nothing to do with any of the several Roman emperors who bore that name, although it does have Italian roots. The salad is said to be the creation of Chef Caesar Cardini, and was prepared with a flourish by the chef himself, in front of his doting patrons.
Of Italian descent, Cardini owned restaurants in California and Mexico. His eponymous salad became a hit with the Hollywood crowd, who enjoyed having the chef prepare it for them at their table.
While not too many restaurants today prepare this salad tableside, or even in the same manner, it's quite impressive when it's done right.
I ordered a Caesar Salad several years ago at the Williamsburg Inn in Virginia. The waiter brought a stand to the table, covered with a beautiful tray holding all the ingredients for my salad, including anchovies. I hate anchovies.
"No anchovies, please," I said.
"But you must have the anchovies," insisted the waiter.
"No. Really. I don't like anchovies."
"But it's not Caesar Salad without anchovies," he said. "Just try it. You won't even know they are there."
"If I won't know they are there, then why would you bother putting them in?" I asked.
"Trust me," he offered, shooting a glance in my husband's direction, looking for support.
"Trust me," said my husband. "She doesn't want them."
I enjoyed a wonderful Caesar Salad, sans anchovies. It was delicious.
My mother would often make Caesar Salad. When I was there for dinner she never added the anchovies; at least that's what she told me.
I also make Caesar Salad, similar to my mother's and never, ever with anchovies.
As it turns out, I was on to something. In his original recipe, Chef Cardini never used anchovies. He believed the Worcestershire sauce gave the salad its distinctive flavor and anchovies weren't necessary.
I couldn't be happier. I love it when I'm right.
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Freshly ground pepper (about 6-8 cranks of pepper grinder)
1 large bunch romaine lettuce
1 coddled egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Caesar salad-style croutons
Remove any damaged outer leaves of romaine lettuce, if necessary, and remove core at the bottom. Slice through the head in 1-inch increments, then wash in cold water. Drain into a colander, and then on paper towels until the lettuce is dry.
To coddle an egg, place the egg in a cup of warm water. Heat enough water in a saucepan to cover the egg. When water begins to boil, gently place the egg into the boiling water and remove from heat. Let sit in water for 60 seconds, then remove egg and gently place into a cup of cold water. Set aside. (See Editor's note.)
In a wooden salad bowl, rub halved pieces of garlic around sides of bowl. Cut garlic into large pieces and leave in bottom of bowl. (If you are a big garlic fan, you can chop the garlic into small pieces and leave it in the dressing.)
Add Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt, dry mustard and pepper. Whisk together then add romaine lettuce, tossing until leaves are coated. Break the egg over the lettuce, then squeeze the juice from the lemon onto lettuce. Add croutons and Parmesan cheese, then toss well.
You can serve this as a salad course or as a light supper, or with grilled chicken.
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half
Drizzle olive oil on top of chicken breasts, then use a pastry brush to cover. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Repeat on the other side. Grill over an open flame for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve over Caesar Salad.
If you don't have a grill, you can easily cook the chicken on the stove. Heat a large frying pan that has been lightly coated with cooking spray over high heat.
Add chicken, cooking 3-4 minutes on each side, until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
Editor's note: If you are concerned about eating raw (or almost raw) eggs, you can opt to use a pasteurized egg or 1/2 cup egg substitute. I have only made Caesar Salad with fresh eggs, but I can't imagine the taste would change that dramatically.
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