from one generation to the next
Caesar salad was badly overexposed in Australia in the 1990s. Every city cafe served it’s own unique version often with embellishments that left the salad a shadow of the original 1924 invention by Italo American chef Caesar Cardini. The “make do” salad became popular because of the flourish of table-side theatre associated with it’s preparation and service.
Cardini’s salad was made with whole cos lettuce (romaine) leaves, and the diner was expected to pick up the filled leaves at the stalk end. Eating Caesar salad with your fingers never really caught on in Australia, but I can however see a direct link between the Caesar boom and the availability of baby cos in every suburban supermarket.
Caesar salad has become a fallback lunch choice when the fridge contents are at a low ebb. It’s rare for me to run out of eggs and parmesan, there’s generally bread and bacon in the freezer and anchovies are a pantry staple.
While I really like the flavour of anchovies, I prefer to soften their impact on the salad by including them in the dressing just as Cardini introduced his anchovy flavour by using Worcestershire sauce. The croutons, bacon and cheese are the salad’s seasoning so it’s wise to use them sparingly to avoid the saltiness dominating each mouthfull.
This is my version of Caesar Salad C1994
to serve 2:
2 heads of baby cos lettuce (romaine)
30g shaved parmagiano reggiano
1 large thick slice of stale sourdough bread
1 tablespoon parmesan oil
3 thick cut short loin rashers of bacon
1 whole egg
1-2 tablespoon lemon juice
8 anchovy fillets, drained
200mls olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
a little tepid water
Preheat the oven to 180C
Trim the root end from the lettuces and separate the leaves. Put the leaves into a large bowl of cold water and chill for 1/2 – 1 hour.
Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Cut the bread into 1cm dice. Drizzle the parmesan oil over the bread, toss to well combine then spread the cubes of bread on a ovenproof tray. Bake until golden brown then set aside to cool.
Dice the bacon, the spread on a baking paper lined ovenproof tray and bake until crisped. Drain on kitchen towel and set aside to cool.
Make the dressing.
Drain the lettuce and thoroughly spin dry. Set aside 8-10 perfect leaves then coarsely shred the remainder. Lightly dress the shredded leaves and set aside.
Soft poach the eggs in your preferred method.
Divide the dressed lettuce between two shallow serving bowls and garnish with the whole leaves. Scatter over the croutons, bacon and shaved parmesan cheese. Top with a poached eggs and a grinding of fresh black pepper.
Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.
to make the dressing:
Put the egg, anchovies and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a deep narrow jug. Incorporate using a stick blender.
Continue to run the blender, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You will end up with a thick mayonnaise.
Thin the dressing with tepid water. Taste and adjust the seasonings with lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.