Saturday, January 15, 2011

Caesar Salad

Once upon a time, I had a craving for a Caesar Salad. If I had been in KL, I would have gone to the one place that (until then) I thought had the best Caesar Salad. But I wasn't in KL and it isn't as easily available at restaurants here. So, I did the only thing I could do - found what looked like a good recipe on the net and convinced S to make it. And that is the story of how 'we' made and discovered the best Caesar Salad that we have ever tasted.

The dressing is deliciously tangy and mildly acidic and most importantly (now that I am older, wiser and more discerning) does not impart the kitschy sweetness that is present in most supermarket and restaurant Caesar dressings. Thrown together, the crunchy, savoury garlic croutons, nutty mellow Parmesan, crisp, fresh cos/romaine lettuce and the comforting taste and texture of hard boiled eggs tossed in the lovely dressing forms a dish with wonderfully complex flavours and varying textures. Normally we top it off with sinful pieces of salty, crispy streaky bacon, but this time we opted for the slightly more elegant and subtle, but just as gratifying, grilled garlic prawns. Absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious.

The recipe is easier than it looks. Don't be afraid to try it. Below is a simplified version of the recipe:

Caesar Salad 
(simplified and slightly modified from here)


2 large garlic cloves (feel free to use more - we do!)
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 cups French baguette slices cut up into 1/2 inch cubes (we normally just use the whole baguette and adjust the other ingredients to taste)

1 large egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 4 flat anchovies
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
2 medium heads of Romaine/cos lettuce (just get a couple of bags of the ready to eat, pre-washed kind)
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Additional Toppings:
Hard boiled eggs (halved)
Crispy streaky bacon (bake in oven until crispy), or
Grilled garlic prawns (use same method (steps 1-3) as prawns in Chili, Garlic Prawn Vermicelli recipe)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Crush the garlic cloves with the side of a chef's knife or with a garlic press.
3. Slice up the baguette and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.
4. Combine garlic, oil, salt, and bread cubes in a bowl.
5. Mix until cubes are coated evenly.
6. Spread the coated cubes onto a baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden (about 10 minutes)

1. Crush the garlic.
2. If you are using flat anchovies out of a can, mince one or two to make 1 1/2 teaspoons worth.
3. Shave the Parmesan cheese. It's always better to grate it yourself if you have the opportunity. 
4. Bring a pot of boiling water to boil, add egg and cook for just 45 seconds....NO MORE. This is coddling the egg. Remove from heat and let it cool off.
5. Meanwhile, mix the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper, anchovy, mustard and capers in a bowl.
6. Crack egg and add to these ingredients. Whisk until smooth.
7. Now for the tricky part. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream while constantly whisking again until smooth. Reason: if you add the oil too quickly, the dressing will be separate and not emulsify.
8. In a big bowl, add half the dressing to the Romaine/cos lettuce and toss.
9. Add remaining dressing, hard boiled eggs and croutons and toss again.
10. Top with shaved Parmesan and crispy streaky bacon or garlic prawns and serve.

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