After my experience at Tony's the other night I thought I would repost a recipe I wrote in July of 2006 for the first incarnation of the Zealot. Two years later it seems that chefs still can't get it right. Even with the onslaught of little gems on the scene (which I love!) it's hard to find a proper, old-school Ceasar salad. So, here it is....... I love Caesar salads. I suppose because I grew up with perfection (Culmone's in Atlantic City, NJ) I've always had a basis for comparison. Mr. Culmone was a man of few words. But when he came tableside with his cart and instruments, he was a maestro conducting a symphony of taste. Nothing seems to come close. The creamy, garlicky mess that most places serve are difficult to stomach. I always order two things when I see them on a menu: Caesar Salad and Macaroni & Cheese (I'll give you a recipe for this soon), and I am often disappointed.
So this post is as much for Bay Area Restaurant Owners as it is for the laymen. Let's step it up a bit! This is how Caesar Salad is made:
1 Egg Yolk 3-5 Anchovy Filets, Depending on size and preference 1 Fresh Garlic Clove - stale garlic will be bitter 1 Small to Medium Lemon Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard Dash or two of Worcestershire Dash of Tobasco Parmigiano Reggiano - freshly grated - don't even think about anything else Light flavored, not grassy, olive oil. Tuscan style works well. I use Bariani. Fresh cracked black pepper 1 Medium sized head of Romaine (it's an art to pick the right one - it does matter!)
Use a large wooden bowl - do not use metal, ceramic or plastic.
Rub the inside of the bowl with the garlic clove. Separate an egg yolk (preferably pastured). Take two forks and add the anchovies. Mash them between the tines of the forks until they are in tiny pieces. There are two ways you can approach the garlic. I like to rub the bowl before I start and then take the remains and chop it finely and add it to the sauce. It's powerful stuff, so you must like garlic to do it this way. You could just rub the bowl and toss it. Add the Dijon, Worcestershire, tobasco and mix it all up with your two forks (you'll have a paste by now). Add enough lemon juice to thin out the paste (sometimes I only use a half of a lemon, sometimes a whole - you'll get a feel for this). Next, with both forks stirring, drizzle in the olive oil. The amount you use should be based upon taste. Add some until it is incorporated, taste, add more. If you are not using a quality, light flavored oil (think $15+), you can cut it a bit with canola oil. Add some black pepper and cheese to the dressing.
Wash and dry your lettuce. Make sure they are VERY dry. Nothing ruins the salad like watery lettuce. I like to cut my romaine into 1" pieces. If you have nice tender stalks from a smaller head, use them whole. Little gems can go in as-is (and have become my roughage of choice). Toss them with the dressing. After you plate the salad, add more cheese on top and fresh pepper at the table.
If you make this, tell me how it turns out and compares to your favorites. Also, I have to give a nod to Zuni Cafe (1658 Market St) as they seem to be one of the few places that "get it"!