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.
Reprinted from Try This at Home: Recipes from my head to your plate by Richard Blais. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkston Potter. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:20 minutes
- 1/2 cup Aioli or good-quality store-bought mayonnaise
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 anchovies, drained
- 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked hickory powder or 2 drops liquid smoke
- 1/4 teaspoon pimenton
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound baby kale or 2 large romaine hearts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup Toasted Herb Bread Crumbs or store-bought croutons
- 1 tablespoon capers, for garnish
- A Parmesan cheese wedge for grating
Put the aioli, lemon juice, anchovies, salt, hickory powder, pimentón, and pepper into a blender and blend until smooth.
Put the greens in a large bowl, pour the dressing over the top, and toss until evenly coated.
To serve, divide the greens among four plates and season generously with pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and capers over the greens, and grate fresh Parmesan over the salads at the table.