Classic Caesar Salad, with Anchovies
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 including small bowls of spices.
From there the show generally ensued one of two ways, the waiter comedian, the 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 crunchy 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.
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, including its gracing with a few salty, flat, anchovies.
The essential finish to the Caesar Salad preparation prepared by either the entertaining or aloof type waiter was the nod and response yes please or no thank you, thus incurring the age old repetitive small talk conversation on if one liked anchovies or one did not like anchovies. The denial of anchovies might incur a bit of scorn or snobbery with distasteful judgement toward uncultured beings whose Caesar Salad might then be deemed nonexistent. Without the anchovies one had certainly not 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.
Caesar Salad always had house made croutons, garlic flavored, golden brown and crunchy, and lots of Parmesan cheese stirred throughout.
And then the true Classic Caesar Salad performance had one additional 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 salad bowl, the blending of fresh and flavored 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. Ah. Memories of experiencing a true Classic Caesar Salad, with Anchovies.