How to Prepare Great Caesar Salads
One of my favorite salads and one that I usually request when dining out is Caesar Salad. I remember dining at a couple of restaurants in New York City where they made the Caesar Salad table side with such flair and showmanship. Now you are lucky if they make the dressing from scratch.
What is a Caesar Salad?
A popular and classic Caesar salad typically consists of romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. It is named after its creator, Caesar Cardini, an Italian-American chef.
The salad is prepared by tearing or cutting romaine lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces and placing them in a bowl. The dressing is made by whisking together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. The dressing is then drizzled over the lettuce, and the salad is tossed to ensure even distribution of the dressing.
Traditionally, Caesar salad is garnished with anchovies, but they are sometimes omitted or substituted with other ingredients for personal preference. Croutons, which are small, toasted bread cubes, are added to provide crunch and texture to the salad. Finally, the salad is topped with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese for additional flavor.
Caesar salad is often served as a side dish or a main course by adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or other protein sources. It has become a popular and widely enjoyed salad worldwide due to its simple yet delicious combination of ingredients.
History of the Caesar Salad
The Caesar salad has a fascinating history linked to its creator, Caesar Cardini. Here's a brief overview of the salad's origin story:
In 1924, Caesar Cardini, an Italian-American chef, owned a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, called Caesar's Place. It was a popular destination for Americans who wanted to enjoy alcoholic beverages during Prohibition in the United States. On July 4th of that year, the story goes that Cardini's restaurant was particularly busy with patrons.
Legend has it that on that day, the kitchen supplies were running low, and Cardini had to devise a dish using the available ingredients. He prepared a salad using romaine lettuce, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper.
Cardini wanted to create a spectacle for the diners, so he prepared the salad tableside. He used the whole romaine lettuce leaves, coated them with the dressing, and tossed the salad using his hands. The salad was served as a whole leaf, which diners tore apart with utensils.
The salad was an instant hit, and its popularity grew as visitors to Tijuana spread the word about this unique creation. Cardini's Caesar salad gained attention, and soon it became a favorite among Hollywood celebrities and prominent figures, further enhancing its reputation.
Over time, the Caesar salad recipe was modified and adapted by different chefs and restaurants, leading to variations in the dressing and additional ingredients. Today, you can find many interpretations of the Caesar salad, ranging from the traditional version to versions with added ingredients like grilled chicken, bacon, or avocado.
Despite its evolution, the Caesar salad remains a classic and beloved dish enjoyed by people worldwide.
What Ingredients Are In the Salad?
The classic ingredients of a Caesar salad include:
- Romaine lettuce: Crisp and sturdy lettuce leaves are typically used as the base of the salad.
- Croutons: Small, toasted bread cubes provide crunch and texture. They can be made from regular bread or specifically seasoned for Caesar salads.
- Parmesan cheese: Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese is sprinkled over the salad to add a savory and nutty flavor.
- Caesar dressing: The dressing is a critical component of a Caesar salad. It typically consists of the following ingredients:
- Olive oil: Provides richness and flavor.
- Lemon juice: Adds tanginess and brightness to the dressing.
- Garlic: Minced or finely chopped garlic adds a distinctive and pungent flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: Contributes a savory and slightly tangy taste.
- Anchovies (optional): Traditional Caesar dressing includes mashed anchovies, or anchovy paste for a unique umami flavor. However, they can be omitted or substituted if desired.
- Raw egg yolk
- Black pepper: Ground black pepper adds a touch of spiciness.
Additional ingredients are sometimes incorporated into Caesar salads to enhance their flavor and make them heartier, such as:
- Grilled chicken: Sliced or grilled chicken breast can be added to transform the salad into a main course.
- Shrimp: Cooked and chilled shrimp can be added for a seafood twist.
- Bacon: Crispy bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon can provide smokiness and additional texture.
- Avocado: Sliced or diced avocado adds creaminess and richness to the salad.
It's worth noting that variations of the Caesar salad may include other ingredients according to personal preference or regional adaptations.
What About Those Raw Eggs for Caesar Salad?
The raw egg yolk helps emulsify and thicken the dressing, giving it a creamy texture. However, due to concerns about food safety and the potential risk of salmonella from raw eggs, many modern recipes and variations of Caesar salad dressing use pasteurized eggs or omit the raw egg altogether.
Some recipes suggest using mayonnaise as a substitute for the raw egg yolk to achieve a similar creamy consistency.
If you choose to use raw eggs in your Caesar salad dressing, it's advisable to use fresh, high-quality eggs from a trusted source and handle them safely to minimize any potential health risks. Alternatively, you can explore various egg-free or pasteurized egg alternatives for the dressing if you have concerns about consuming raw eggs.
A coddled egg can also be used, giving the dressing a smoother, creamier texture. How does the Reluctant Gourmet coddle an egg?
Easy, bring a small pot of water to a fast boil and gently place the egg into it and cook for 60 seconds. Remove the egg from the water and cool off under cold water to stop the cooking process.
You can buy a variety of bottled Caesar Salad dressings in your grocery store, even one with a photo of Chef Cardini on it, but none are as good as making it yourself.
The recipe below is not Cardini's original recipe but one that was given to me by a chef in New York City. You can also buy a variety of commercial croutons, but I highly recommend making your own.
It's easy and the taste is far better than any crouton you can purchase. You can store the croutons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day.
Caesar Salad Recipe
For the Croutons
- 2 cloves garlic large
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil virgin
- 2 cups French baguette slices cut up into ½ inch cubes, white bread works too
For the Salad
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1½ teaspoons anchovy paste or 4 flat anchovies
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup olive oil virgin
- 2 heads romaine lettuce outer leaves removed
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese grated
For the Croutons
- Combine garlic, oil, salt, and bread cubes in a bowl. Mix until cubes are coated evenly.
- Spread the coated cubes onto a baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden. This should take about 10 minutes.
For the Salad
- Bring a pot of boiling water to boil, add egg and cook for just 60 seconds....NO MORE. This is coddling the egg. Remove the egg from the water and let it cool off. You can also run the egg under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Meanwhile, mix the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper, anchovy, mustard and capers in a bowl.
- Crack the coddled egg and add to these ingredients. Whisk until smooth.
- Now for the tricky part. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream while constantly whisking again until smooth. Reason: if you add the oil too quickly, the dressing will be separate and not emulsify.
- Tear the romaine lettuce into 1-2 inch pieces and add them to a large bowl (wooden if you have one).
- Add half the dressing, toss, add remaining dressing, Parmesan cheese, and croutons and toss again.
- Serve on chilled plates.
Some of My Favorite Salad Recipes
- How to Make a Basic Orzo Salad
- What Is Cowboy Caviar and How To Make at Home
- Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets Pistachio and Goat Cheese Recipe
- Grilled Radicchio and Corn Salad Recipe
- Kale Salad with Lemon and Garlic Dressing Recipe
- Cilantro Cole Slaw Recipe
- All About Salad Greens
- Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette Recipe For Fish