Monday, April 26, 2010

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad
November, 2007
Updated April, 2010
Excerpt from "In the Kitchen With Family and Friends" by Karen Lee

“This is my “signature” dish. It’s the recipe that I’m most proud of. Jim loves this dish and Caesar salad has become a staple in our regular weekly diet. For a complete meal, we usually toss in slices of sautéed chicken breasts, spiced with jerk seasoning.
I sincerely hope you enjoy it!”

Following are ESTIMATED proportions and basic guidelines. I’m too lazy to measure when I cook, and the flavor of olive oils, vinegars, and anchovies differ with every bottle and can. Adjustments will always be required, so please use your palate to correctly adjust proportions of your ingredients, according to your personal preference. The quantities below will produce 4 to 6 small side salads or 2 large entree salads. The estimated time of preparation is about 45 minutes.

1 full-size head of romaine lettuce, not prewashed and not precut
3 large (or 6 small) cloves fresh garlic
1 ½ cups virgin olive oil
1 fresh egg
2 lemons or 3 key limes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 cans of flat anchovies (not with capers)
Please read special about anchovies note below*
4 oz. can grated parmesan cheese
2 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon raw granulated sugar
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (opt.)
½ teaspoon of prepared mustard (opt.)
2 slices of multi-grain bread
Dried thyme & basil (and any other spices that you like)

Step 1 – Prepare lettuce. This step is overlooked by most chefs, but it is VERY important for a good-tasting result.
Select a large head of romaine lettuce that looks fresh and full. Discard the ragged outer leaves. Hand rinse each leaf in cold, running water. Remove and discard the whitish-colored stalks
from the green leaves. Hand tear the leaves into large bite-sized pieces (do not use a knife), and spin the clean lettuce in a lettuce spinner or pat dry with clean towel. Put the lettuce in a bowl and squeeze the juice of one lemon (or lime) onto leaves and toss. Put the bowl uncovered in refrigerator while making dressing, or overnight (not longer). Ascetic acid in the citrus and the quick chill will make the leaves become crisp.

Step 2. Make croutons. Without fresh, homemade croutons, the rest of your Caesar salad efforts are wasted. Boxed croutons are always too hard, stale, and really boring.

Peel & chop 2 garlic cloves. In sauté pan, pour 1/8 inch olive oil. Sauté garlic until light golden brown on medium-low heat. Cut bread into ¾” cubes. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer in pan. Pan-fry cubes, flipping frequently, until croutons are brown and crisp on all sides; take care not to burn them. Sprinkle dried spices and salt liberally over croutons, sauté 2 minutes more. You can drizzle a little more olive oil on top of the croutons during while sautéing, if you like. When perfectly browned, remove the croutons from the heat; lightly sprinkle them with grated parmesan cheese. Set aside; be sure to hide your yummy croutons from crouton thieves that always appear near the stove about this time.

Step 3. Prepare dressing.

In an electric blender or food processor, blend 1 clove of garlic in ¼ cup olive oil until garlic is pureed. Add 1 can of anchovies (including oil), 1 egg, and juice of one lemon or key lime. Blend until creamy. While running the blender or processor on low speed, slowly pour in the remaining olive oil in a thin, steady stream. The sauce should thicken into a creamy texture. Add vinegars, grated parmesan cheese, sugar, worst. sauce, and mustard. Blend completely. If the dressing appears too thick, add a little bit of water to achieve desired consistency. If dressing is too tart, add more oil and/or sugar (be careful not to add too much of either). If dressing is too oily, add more vinegar.

Step 4. Toss and serve salad. (Do NOT toss salad with dressing until you are ready to serve immediately. If you toss the salad and let it sit, it will become wilted and yucky.)

In an extra large salad bowl, toss the chilled, crisp lettuce with about ½ cup of dressing, making sure each piece of lettuce becomes coated with dressing. If you like more dressing, add it carefully, tossing well with each addition. After lettuce is tossed well with dressing, add shredded parmesan cheese, toss the salad again, well. Optional – add chopped anchovies, toss again. Add croutons to top of salad. Don’t toss again. SERVE IMMEDIATELY!

Step 5. Accept compliments graciously. ☺

Note: Extra dressing lasts about 1 week in the refrigerator. Store it in a closed container or your milk will taste like anchovies!

*Special note about anchovies: You cannot make a real Caesar salad without anchovies. Even if you hate anchovies, you’ll love this dressing. (Trust me, Pam Bova.) When you purchase your anchovy cans, buy the most expensive brand that is available and be careful not to purchase cans that are bulging. When you open the cans, if the can makes a popping sound, discard that can immediately! If the can opens smoothly, that’s good!

After you’ve opened the can, take a quick sniff of the anchovies. Freshly and properly canned anchovies smell good and are very yummy, but, nothing will turn you off faster than a rotten can of anchovies. Please give them a quick sniff-test! You’ll know right away if they’re bad. It’s my opinion that most people who say they hate anchovies have eaten or smelled bad anchovies in the past. Fish canning techniques are not consistent. I have had a few bad experiences, myself, with some bulging, popping cans! Just follow the above Bulge, Pop, and Sniff tests and you’ll be fine!

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