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Verses from my Kitchen: All Hail Caesar Salad

September 25, 2010

All Hail Caesar Salad

There is something especially tantalizing about a Caesar salad and the dressing that takes what would be an ordinary salad to an entirely new level. It's simple and quick and complicated all at once, especially if it's done right.

The beauty of this dish is the versatility it brings. And the flavour. You can make it and use it as a side or it can be the star of the show. Also, there are countless ways to make it. So many varieties, so many options but one fantastic taste. It captures you the dressing grabs hold of you. There's only one secret. You have to use Parmigiana Reggiano and the dressing has to be made from scratch. Have no fear, it isn't that hard.

My wife loves this dish. She loves Caesar for a snack or on the side of a plate or with roasted chicken and even with steak. It really is the salad that solves all. As much as my wife loves this dish, I love making it. It's rustic, creamy, zesty and full of flavour. One bite of the real thing and you'll be hooked for life. 

This is the way I make my Caesar Salad with Croutons. Sometimes I add bacon, sometimes pancetta and other times I leave it as is. There is no right or wrong answer. I mostly use anchovies but have used creme fraiche on rare occasion. I've added a small bit of tobasco at the end of my dressing and other times I've used capers. I love it that the variations are endless and yet it turns out brilliantly.

My Ultimate Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad with Rustic Crunchy Croutons

Yields: 4-6 (about 2 cups)

The Goods:
1 garlic clove, minced
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (or 1" anchovy paste)
2 egg yolks (room temperature holds the emulsion better)
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Cracked pepper
2 tbsp. capers
3/4 cup Extra-Virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
12 slices of Pancetta or Bacon
1-2 heads Romaine (outside leaves removed, inside leaves washed and broken up by hand)
1/2 loaf of Italian bread

The Prep:
To make the dressing: Rub the garlic paste around the inside of the salad bowl. Add the anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and capers into a blender and process until smooth. With the blender still running, pour the olive oil in very slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan and a pinch of salt and cracked pepper and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Break the bread into cubes and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Spread the cubes in a layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, roughly 15 minutes. At the same time, add the pancetta slices and cook for same duration until golden and crispy.

To assemble the salad, add the dressing to the bottom of the bowl. Add enough to coat the salad. Tear the lettuce and add some extra grated Parmesan, the rustic croutons and chopped pancetta and toss the salad well. Serve immediately.


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