Caesar salad is one of those dishes I cannot stop myself from ordering in restaurants even though I know that nine times out of ten I'm going to be severely disappointed. This is especially true, for some reason, in the UK. They know that it should have romaine lettuce, tomatoes, croutons and a sort of a creamy dressing...and there is the problem. "Sort of a creamy dressing" is what you usually get, instead of a sharp lively mixture of anchovy, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, freshly ground pepper and parmesan.
And yes, I know, a Chicken Caesar's Salad is irreverant, unethical and almost downright un-American, certainly not traditional. So sue me. I love Caesar's salad dressing on just about ANYTHING.
By most accounts, the original Caesar's salad was first made by one Caesar Cardini of Tijuana. Mr. Cardini used a mixture of garlic, heart of romaine leaves, fresh ground pepper, a dash of salt, imported olive oil, fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce (where the anchovy flavor came from), homemade croutons and Parmesan cheese. If you are interested in reviews of restaurant and bottled dressings, you can check out the unofficial Caesar Salad site.
My dressing differs somewhat from the above, but I find it absolutely delicious. I don't know where I picked up the idea of putting mustard in there, but I must have gotten it somewhere. Probably from a Brit...
Meg & Caesar's Salad Dressing
In the 2-cup attachment to your Braun immersion blender, put the following ingredients:
one small can of anchovies, minus the chef's due and a couple for garnish
a lump of young parmesan about the size of your thumb, maybe a little bigger
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
juice from 1/2 a medium lemon
several good grindings of fresh pepper
1 tsp mustard
Whiz with the immersion blender until all is creamy and delicious. At this point you may want to add just a tiny bit of water as it will be fairly thick. However, if you are going to toss the salad (as opposed to drizzling over the lettuce) I wouldn't bother.
I'm not sure where the obsession with raw eggs and Caesar salad originally came from (surely not somewhere as hot as Tijuana?!?) but I've never felt it was absolutely necessary. And, despite my stance on stuffing poultry, I avoid food risks where I can.
The dressing combined wonderfully with the salad I made last night of Things Grilled on My Cast-Iron Grill Pan:
- eggplant slices
- peppers (jalepeno and bell)
I brushed the vegetables with olive oil in which a crushed garlic clove was soaking (and later used same oil and garlic in the dressing). The chicken was marinated in white wine, garlic, basil and parsley. They all went together beautifully and it was difficult to resist eating the extra I had intentionally prepared for my lunch today.
Some tips on salad that I have learned over the years:
1. If your lettuce is tired and somewhat wilted, put it in a bowl full of water with a couple of ice cubes for at least half an hour. When you spin it, you'll find that it's become nice and crispy again. (This was my Austrian grandmother's trick!)
2. The best way to store fresh lettuce is in the salad spinner in the fridge. Yes, this is one I found out all by myself by being too lazy to put the lettuce in a bag. If you empty out the water that was extracted in the spinning and put the spinner in the fridge, the lettuce will keep very well for several days longer than in a bag.
3. If you have dinner guests and want to prepare the salad in advance, mix the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl and put the lettuce in the bowl without mixing. The small amount of salad that is touching the dressing may get a little soggy, but it's unnoticeable in the bowl of nicely dressed salad that you'll have when you mix it at the table. (Mme Hollard, the mother of a friend of mine, showed me that trick.)
And I did eat my salad for lunch and it was very good. It would have been better with a few tomatoes, but alas, we were out when I made the salad and I was too tired to go out again to the store. Such is life.
(One last note on the photo: this was my lunch version, which did not include any chicken. The chicken was too good to save for the next day!)