Serious Eats

Richard Blais's Smoked Caesar Salad

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[Photograph: John Lee]

When I was younger, I used to eat Caesar salad all the time. Over the years, however, I have grown tired of the often over-dressed and heavy salad, preferring instead crisp, bright vinaigrettes and tender baby lettuces. But Richard Blais's smoked version of the caesar in Try This at Home has totally changed my tune.

As with the classic Caesar, the basic salad elements are sparse: lettuce (Blais calls for either baby kale or romaine), croutons, dressing, and parmesan. The creamy dressing is what really sets this salad apart. He starts with a mayonnaise base (homemade or otherwise), and blends in a trifecta of smokey elements. Smoked sea salt, hickory powder or liquid smoke, and smoked paprika mingle with the anchovies and lemon for a potent dressing that clings perfectly to the greens.

Why I picked this recipe: This elegant take on the classic Caesar salad was the right combination of innovative flavors and simple technique.

What worked: Smoke and anchovies are a match made in heaven. Crunchy herbed croutons and a creamy dressing don't hurt either.

What didn't: Blais calls for simply "pimenton" in the ingredient list, but in his headnote he mentions three smoked ingredients. I went ahead and assumed he meant smoked paprika, so I went with that.

Suggested tweaks: Since you're using a blender already, you might as well whip up your own blender mayo to use in the dressing. If you're starting with storebought mayo, add a small clove of garlic to the blender when you're mixing the dressing. I used baby kale in the salad, but I think I would prefer the crunch of romaine next time.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Try This at Home to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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