I had no idea what to expect when I cracked open Ferran Adria's recent cookbook, devoted not to the modernist, inventive cooking of El Bulli, but instead to an aspect of the restaurant that many people would overlook: the staff meal. The Family Meal, recently featured in our Cook the Book series, is a book mostly made up of universally-known comfort food, like barbecue and pasta bolognese, with the name of one of the world's most innovative chefs on the cover.
I started with a basic test: the Caesar salad. Though the recipe deviates from the authentic recipe from Tijuana (using Spain's ubiquitous sherry vinegar instead of lemon or lime juice), it's a delicious variation, and otherwise a pretty basic recipe centered around garlic and anchovies, like a proper Caesar dressing should be.
And indeed, the ingredient ratios and flavor were outstanding. Amazingly, though, the technique was wrong: rather than adding the oil last to create a creamy emulsion, the recipe says to add it first, so when the sherry vinegar goes in, the dressing breaks. Who knows what went wrong in translation (in scaling it down from huge quantities and going through a recipe-writer's revision) but I had to start over to get it right, and rewrote the order below. But it works now—and it's delicious.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 thick slices rustic bread, torn or cut into crouton sizes
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 4 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil, drained and minced
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as sunflower oil
- 1 1/2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Salt and pepper
- 2 medium head Romaine lettuce, tough outer leaves removed, cut cross-wise into 1 1/2-inch strips
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over mediumheat until shimming, then add the chunks of bread and toss to coat. Lower the heat and cook gently, tossing the skillet occasionally, until the bread is crisp but still a bit chewy in the center, 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the garlic and anchovies in a small food processor (or mince very finely by hand and add to a medium bowl) and pulse to completely mince the ingredients. Add the egg yolks and pulse to combine, then drizzle in the sherry vinegar with the machine running to fully incorporate. Add the oil with the machine running to create a thick, mayonnaise-like dressing (alternatively, the vinegar and oil can be whisked into the bowl by hand little by little). Add half the grated Parmesan to the dressing.Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, whisk in a little water (or more vinegar) to thin it out.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing and croutons. Divide amongst bowls and top with the remaining Parmesan and freshly grated black pepper.