To anchovy or not to anchovy? That may be the Caesar salad question. The original recipe didn't have them—it had Worcestershire sauce. But personally, I love the nutty flavor of anchovies, so when Alice Waters backed me up in The Art of Simple Food, I felt a boost of confidence. Every single thing I've made out of her book has been spot-on, and I was sure this would follow.
Fearing the wrath of Michael Ruhlman, I decided not to make it a Chicken Caesar. I'm glad I abstained: chicken breast wouldn't add much to this salad, serving only its usual function as a boneless, relatively tasteless protein to make the meat eaters happy. The play of textures is already interesting, between the crunchy croutons with their soft interior, and the spectrum of crunch from leaf to leaf. The dressing is delicious—though this is a very different taste than the restaurant or bottled Caesar I was used to. It's sharper, more daring, less gummy and creamy. It's kind of intoxicating. To cut back on the sharpness, use a milder olive oil.
About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it here at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.
Alice Waters' Caesar Salad
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food
- For the croutons
- 3 ounces day-old bread cut 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the dressing
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, pounded to a puree (or put through a garlic press)
- 2 teaspoons chopped anchovies, about 2-3 fillets
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, dark outer leaves removed
Meanwhile, wash the lettuce well, tearing the larger leaves into bite-size pieces and leaving the small light interior leaves whole. Dry well in a salad spinner and chill until ready to serve.
In a small bowl, mix together the acids, garlic, anchovies, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil very slowly to make an emulsion. Then whisk in the egg yolk and a handful of the Parmesan cheese (perhaps half). Taste for salt and acid with a piece of the lettuce.
In a large bowl, add the lettuce and pour over 3/4 of the dressing, tossing well, adding more dressing if needed. Add most of the remaining cheese, and arrange the salad in serving bowls or plates. Toss the croutons in the large bowl to soak up remaining dressing, and scatter them over the individual servings. Top with any remaining cheese and serve with a twist of black pepper.