It is no wonder I never learned about Caesar salad in my years of junior high and high school Latin. We did discuss cultural aspects of the Classics including the Roman Republic, but the salad never came up because it has nothing to do with that Caesar, something I learned years later in culinary school. Restaurateur Caesar Cardini was pressed to feed a group of diners with whatever ingredients he had on hand at his Tijuana restaurant in 1924, and his culinary heroics resulted in the iconic salad. It is a shame the other Caesar usually gets credit for this invention.
For the salad, I whipped up the dressing in a large bowl, tipped that bowl around to coat the sides and then poured out the excess dressing. Tossing the lettuce in the bowl lightly dressed the leaves, and extra dressing was served alongside allowing guests to adjust the salad to their taste. Homemade croutons are a must giving the salad additional crunch to go with crisp Romaine. When done with real dressing, not the faux bottled kind, Caesar salad can be an elegant starter or satisfying lunch.
For the croutons
4 – 5 cups crusty bread torn into cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the salad dressing
2 anchovy fillets
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
For the salad
2 – 3 heads Romaine lettuce, wash, dried and torn into pieces
1 cup croutons
2 ounces Parmesan shavings
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the bread in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet pan.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic and simmer for a few minutes until fragrant. Remove the garlic and toss the bread with the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake the croutons for 20-25 minutes tossing once until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before adding to the salad.
For the dressing, mince the anchovy fillets and garlic cloves into a paste. Combine the paste, egg yolk, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil in a fine stream. Continue whisking until the dressing is fully combined.
To assemble the salad, tip the dressing around in the bowl to coat the sides and then pour out the excess. Toss the lettuce in the bowl and add the croutons. Top with Parmesan shavings and serve with extra dressing on the side.
Note: This recipe makes more croutons than needed for the salad. These croutons work well in any salad. Croutons can be made in advance. Store in an airtight container.