Growing up, you all know that I hated most vegetables, and lettuce was no exception. I was not what you’d call a willing participant in that event we call Eating Your Salad. In fact, I despised most salads with much fervor – but for one in particular: the Caesar salad. I have always ADORED Caesar salad. I would have eaten Caesar salad once a day if permitted. Not only was it far and away my favorite salad, it was actually one of my favorite foods.
I would order it at restaurants often, and I loved it when my mom occasionally made it at home. At the grocery store, I always begged her to buy the bottled Caesar dressing when we passed the salad dressing aisle, and when I graduated college, I often bought those prepackaged Caesar salad kits in the produce aisle. You know the ones with the bagged, pre-cut lettuce and the dressing packets? I admit, it makes me shudder to think of it now, but I have to come clean with you and confess that I did it. A lot.
Over the past several years, I have learned to make Caesar dressing from scratch. It’s delicious, and there’s not much comparison to the corn-syrup and preservative-laden bottled stuff. It’s also pretty darn easy to pull off! And it’s become a go-to in our house. I usually have the ingredients on hand, so it oftentimes becomes the staple I-had-a-long-day-and-I’m-cranky-and-don’t-feel-like-making-dinner meal, when one or the other of us has had one of those days.
We all change a lot going from children to adults. We learn, we experience things, we attend various schools of hard knocks. Our preferences and tastes change. We become more open-minded. But the love for Caesar salad has never changed for me. It’s something I frequently order in casual restaurants, especially if I’m unfamiliar with the place or its reputation. And it’s usually a safe bet. I find that when Caesar salad is good, it’s a religious experience; and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
Source: adapted from 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast by Emeril Lagasse
1/2 a French baguette, preferably day-old, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 egg yolk
3 large anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
Dash of hot sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 romaine hearts, cut into 1-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. You want all the bread cubes coated in the oil.
Spread the bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Place the egg yolk, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and mustard in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until completely incorporated, smooth and thick. The key is to drizzle slowly.
Stop processing and add 1/4 cup of the cheese, the hot sauce, Worcestershire, plus salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the romaine, the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper. Add 1/2 a cup plus 2 tbs of the dressing, then toss to combine. Sprinkle the croutons on top. Serve immediately.
The leftover dressing will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container and refrigerated.