Caesar Salad is one of those dishes that it sometimes seems that everyone and no-one knows how to make. Most cafes seem to offer one, there are a huge number of recipes online, but many of them seem to have little more than the name in common with the original. I recently saw something called a ‘salmon caesar salad’ which involved lettuce, smoked salmon and a dill vinaigrette… It might have had croutons, but that was about as close as it got to the real thing!
I’m not prone to making claims such ‘the best’ or ‘most authentic’, so I won’t say this recipe is either, it’s simply my favourite Caesar Salad. More specifically, it’s my favourite Caesar Salad dressing, as I find it’s the dressing that most often disappoints.
The key components in this dressing are raw egg (though I understand the original, pre food processor, uses a coddled egg for thickness), anchovy, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. It’s very strongly flavoured – salty from the anchovy, pungent from the raw garlic, rich from the anchovy and Worcestershire, with the egg and oil creating the thick dolloping texture.
Having rashly claimed that I’m not prone to making claims!, I will now go out on a limb and say that if it doesn’t have anchovies it’s not a Caesar Salad – sorry all those anchovy haters out there! But I will also say that while they add an absolutely essential something to the dressing, you wouldn’t necessarily know it was anchovy, it’s just a fabulous something extra…
The croutons and Cos mostly provide a beautifully crunchy textural backdrop to the creamy dressing, with an extra salty/savoury punch coming from the additional whole anchovies (which alright, I will agree you could leave out as long as you still have them in the dressing), parmesan and proscuitto.
It really is a classic for a reason, and the dressing is very easy, much easier than mayonnaise or Hollandaise for example, and will last in the fridge for a few days. Are you a Caesar Salad fan, and do you also have strong views on anchovies, or other ingredients for that matter?
Adapted from a very old Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe
- 2 cos lettuce or 4 baby ones
- stale bread for croutons – about 1/2 a baguette or 3-4 thick slices of crusty sourdough or Italian bread
- 1 clove garlic
- 8 anchovy fillets, to serve
- 1/2 c shaved parmesan, to serve
- 4 slices prosciutto, to serve (optional)
- 1 egg
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 125 ml olive oil
- 1/4 c finely grated parmesan
First make the dressing. Combine the first five ingredients in a small food processor and process at medium high speed until smooth. With motor running, add oil in a thin stream, processing until thick and smooth. Scrape out of the processor and gently stir in the grated parmesan.
For the salad, wash the lettuce leaves and spin in a salad spinner or tea towel until dry. If using large Cos leaves, I prefer to shred them, leaving the small leaves whole.
Crush the garlic clove and mix with a couple of tablespoons of oil from the anchovies. Brush the bread slices with the oil, and cut the bread into chunky cubes about 3cm square. Fry or grill the bread until well browned – though probably not as well browned as pictured above! If using the proscuitto, grill until crisp, then cool.
If you want to assemble as one salad, then gently mix about two thirds of the dressing through the lettuce, and toss through the croutons, reserving some for the top. Arrange the remaining croutons, anchovy fillets, parmesan flakes and proscuitto over the salad, and drizzle with the remaining dressing.
Alternatively, and this is often my preference, I use baby Cos leaves, and prepare each of the components separately. People can then combine the salad themselves – topping a baby Cos leaf with a crouton, dressing and parmesan as above.