Caesar Salad

caesar saladYears ago, a friend and I used to go the Newfoundland Hotel’s main dining room, the fancy one, for one thing.  Caesar salad.  The waiter would come with a trolley filled with the makings and create it at the table.  Watching him was part of the joy.  He’d expertly crack the egg, beat the mayonnaise, add everything else and then, with a flourish, he’d serve up individual bowls to us.  With an “enjoy”, he’d leave the large bowl with us and take his trolley away.  Other diners would also watch the performance, just like you do when people are getting dishes flambéed.

“Real” Caesar (for 2-4)

mayonnaise in bowl, ready for lettuceUse a wooden salad bowl that has been “seasoned” with garlic rubbed around the inside.  Put one egg yolk* in bowl.  Beat yolk vigorously with a wooden spoon (3-5 mins) until it begins to thicken.  Slowly drizzle olive oil in yolk while continuing to beat.  Use perhaps 1-2 tbsps in total.  Egg should thicken to consistency of thin mayonnaise.  Add 1 clove pressed garlic**, 1-2 tsp lemon juice (about half a lemon), 1/2 inch anchovy paste and 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan, stir until mixed but not more.

Add washed and dried romaine lettuce*** broken (not cut) into bite-sized pieces.  Toss well with dressing, adding another tbsp or so parmesan while tossing.  Sprinkle lemon juice on.  Croutons, bacon bits, black olives and/or cherry tomatoes may be tossed in. Fresh-ground pepper on top is good

* If you are worried about bacteria from raw egg, you can put the whole egg (in its shell) in boiling water for 1 min.  It will not cook the egg but will kill anything harmful.

**If you don’t like garlic, you can leave it out.

*** Use the amount of lettuce that the dressing coats for a good-tasting salad.  Too little lettuce and the dressing will be overpowering, too much and the dressing will be inadequate.  If you want a very small salad, using only half the egg yolk is better.

“Fake” Caesar (for 2-4)

mayonnaise with lemon juice & anchovy paste in bowlPut 1-2 tbsp store-bought real mayonnaise in a salad bowl (wooden or otherwise).  Add anchovy paste and lemon juice as above.  Beat mayonnaise with a spoon while drizzling 1 tbsp olive oil slowly into it.  Consistency should be thinner than original mayonnaise, but still creamy.  Add 1 clove pressed garlic and 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan.  Stir until well mixed.  Add romaine lettuce etc. as above.

The  “real” Caesar recipe is from me watching someone else make it; the “fake” one is from a magazine.   Making real mayonnaise from egg yolk is tricky.   It needs strong beating to make it creamy without the yolk and oil separating.  High humidity will cause it to not thicken regardless of what you do.  However, if you can master the proper wrist action, it is very impressive, and the result is delicious.  The “fake” one is much easier, is not affected by weather and is pretty much as good as the real one – although it can’t match the real one as performance art.

These photos are of the “fake” caesar.  To see the progression, follow them from bottom up.