The Recipe: Caesar Salad
Making a good Ceasar Salad is probably the best thing I learned in one of the many, many jobs I had in college
In the 1980’s, I spent some time working for Madison Hotel proprietor Marshall B. Coyne in Washington, D.C., a man of the most exacting standards
At the time, the Madison was a hotel without rival in the nation's capital. And though Mr. Coyne certainly never missed an opportunity to make a dollar—the Madison was very expensive and frequently hosted diplomatic delegations, including those of Gorbachev and Yeltzin—in other respects, there was something old world about the man and the kitchen that prepared most of his meals.
For example, the house restaurant was closed for six months to complete extensive renovations, and yet when it finally re–opened, the tables stayed empty for months and months. You see, Mr. Coyne would not think of advertising such a thing. “People of quality,” Mr. Coyne believed, would eventually learn that “a place of quality” was open for service.
The chefs at the Madison, like all other management positions, were in and out of a revolving door. Mr. Coyne's temper was legendary, and it was generally understood when you were hired that getting fired would only be a matter of time. A clever man and impeccable cook, whom I only ever knew as “Geiger,” had avoided this trap by declining to accept the top position several times. But in fact, Geiger was one of Mr. Coyne’s favorites and frequently was chosen to prepare the meals carted across the street daily to Mr. Coyne’s business office, which stared accusingly at his hotel.
What follows is the classic version of a Caesar Salad, first invented by Cesare Cardini in the 1920’s, more–or–less as served by Geiger to Mr. Coyne and taught to me in a sweltering summer during college. Bon appetit.
Chill bowls and forks if you’re obsessive (I’m obsessive).
Some say a truly authentic Caesar Salad would include anchovies, but that isn’t historically true and the Worcestershire is serving the same purpose (umami). I now add 1 tsp of fish sauce to amplify the umami, and you’ll never taste it, but this is how I was taught to make it.
Of course, eventually you should adjust this to your taste. My daughter dislikes the amount of mustard I like. My son thinks I need to cut back on the vinegar by a ½ tsp.
1 clove garlic minced (I like 2, though. Get young garlic or at least make sure you remove the bitter green root at the center)
½ lemon’s juice (no seeds or pulp!)
1 Tb dijon mustard (I like country style; the other is less tangy and chunky if you want a more refined, smoother dressing)
6 Tb extra virgin olive oil
One egg yolk (Vegans may substitute 1 Tb Soy Lecithin. Those who fear raw eggs can "coddle" them by steeping them in simmering water for 1 minute; this will kill any salmonella by raising the internal temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or so)
2 tsp red wine vinegar (balsamic is too distinctive for this)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (again, I add 1 tsp of fish sauce, too)
½ tsp salt (Kosher or sea, is best, because I like the texture)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
½ cup croutons (preferably homemade—tossed with butter, salt, and minced garlic, then baked 10-15 minutes at 350—turning them over so they brown evenly)
One head of Romaine, heel removed, leaves washed, spun dry, and ripped (not cut) into edible segments. Keep chilled until ready to toss with dressing!
- Cut garlic clove in half and rub interior of your (wooden) salad bowl
- Mince garlic. Working in the bowl,
- make light emulsion of dressing (mix garlic, lemon, mustard, yolk, Worcestershire, salt, pepper; then add olive oil, vinegar. Mix again)
- toss Romaine in dressing. Every leaf should have a light coating.
- add croutons
- cover with parmesan
- toss again and portion
- grind pepper over individual portions if desired.
- Eat immediately! And eat it up (this does not refrigerate well ...)!