Who remembers how fancy it seemed having your Caesar Salad prepared table-side? A fine restaurant, a serious waiter, typically attired in a black suit, starched white shirt and bow tie, meticulously performing the routine like a scientist, pouring and combining the components of test tubes perfectly aligned on a wooden rack, then poof. Only in this case, it was a large wooden bowl.
A stainless steel wheeled server cart, carefully lined with separate and well measured ingredients included the small bowl of spices. From there the show generally ensued one of two ways, the waiter comedian, an entertaining humorous waiter instilling special magical fun into the evening’s tables of endless performances. Alternatively, there was the aloof, almost snobbish, superior waiter whose preparation was not a show of any kind, but merely a favor, a condescending ritual accepted as perfunctory delivery on what all people dining in dignified manner should experience. Haute Cuisine.
Whether romaine lettuce saw its most glorified days back in the time of table-side preparation I think is left undetermined given consideration that these deep green leaves grace even the most common of food establishments today. Perhaps topped with a slice of salmon, chicken, shrimp, whatever, it all goes under the guise of Caesar Salad, though in my own mind, incorrectly so. Perplexing is how this common name has ensued, given the lack of those few key ingredients defining a Classic Caesar Salad in its once revered simplistic elegance, such as its gracing with a few choice salty, flat, anchovies. An essential part of finishing the Caesar Salad preparation process included nodding and responding yes please, or, no thank you, to the humorous or aloof waiter, always followed by the painfully repetitive small talk conversation, one liked anchovies or one did not like anchovies. The denial of anchovies topping this salad, however, had oftentimes even been scorned, a sort of distasteful judgement toward those unadventurous, uncultured beings, even going so far as to suggest an entire notion that without the anchovies, one had certainly then not actually experienced a real ‘Caesar Salad.’
Cold, crisp, bite size pieces of romaine tumbled throughout the designated wood colored bowl tossed with the spices, garlic, the vinaigrette, before creating a slight center well at the bottom, and dropping a bright golden egg yolk into the open space using the long wooden utensils in a sort of rhythmic lifting and dropping precision.
There were the house made croutons, garlic flavored, golden brown and crunchy, and lots of Parmesan cheese stirred throughout. And then, only for the true, Classic Caesar Salad there was that one important moment just before tasting. Napkin still on lap, fork in left hand, knife in right, the Grand Finale, the appearance of a gigantically tall wood pepper mill, often delivered by the nervous novice waiter off to the corner who would most eagerly hasten forth the final inquiry, ‘would you care for some cracked black pepper Madam,’ or something to that notion, even if you were only ten.
Prepared table-side, off a stainless steel wheeled server cart, its contents building within a large wooden bowl, the blending of same common ingredients, tossed with long wooden utensils in rhythmic lifting and dropping precision. House made croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a few cranks of fresh cracked pepper topped from a gigantically tall wood pepper mill, these each a part in the recipe of good memories, that of experiencing a true Classic Caesar Salad, with Anchovies.
- a couple good pinches sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- a few good shakes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 small cloves garlic, very finely diced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons oil, a combination of olive oil and canola or vegetable oil, plus a bit more oil to taste if desired
- cubes of stale bread from a baguette or crusty loaf, around a cup or more
- 1/8 cup canola, vegetable, or olive oil
- a couple pinches coarse kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic powder, more or less to taste
- 1 large or 2 smaller heads romaine lettuce, cleaned, dried well, cut into bite size pieces (any bruised or flimsy pieces discarded)
- Dressing (recipe below)
- 1 egg yolk
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- croutons (recipe below)
- 2-3 anchovies per salad, whole
- 1 clove garlic, slightly crushed for rubbing all over salad bowl before adding ingredients
- freshly cracked black pepper to finish
- Sprinkle sugar and dried spices into a very large wood salad or mixing bowl that will easily hold romaine lettuce for tossing, lightly whisk dry ingredients together. Shake in Worcestershire sauce, whisk, add garlic and vinegar, whisk. A bit at a time begin pouring in the oil whisking vigorously all the while, check flavor, adding in a bit more oil to mellow flavor if desired. Set dressing aside until salad assembly.
- Toss bread cubes in the oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir throughout. On very low heat in a medium sized saute pan warm 2 tablespoons oil, add in the seasoned cubes, stir and continue cooking until bread is golden brown and crispy around ten minutes, adding more oil during cooking if needed.
- Rub around the sides of the wooden salad bowl all around with the piece of slightly crushed garlic, then discard garlic. Vigorously whisk dressing, add in the romaine lettuce and toss throughout. Move lettuce slightly to the sides making a small well in the center of the bowl, drop in egg yolk and blend throughout coating the lettuce leaves. Make another slight well in the center of the bowl, drop in the Parmesan cheese and toss thoroughly throughout. Tumble in the croutons, mix well. Place a generous amount of salad onto each plate and top with anchovies, finish topping with some freshly cracked black pepper, serve immediately.