Monday, January 4, 2016

Caesar Salad Dressing

I've never really been into Caesar dressing. Actually, let me clarify that I've never really been into bottled Caesar dressing. It's always a little too salty and a little goopy and frankly, gross. I've never really been into the typical Caesar salad that's served in restaurants. However, at fancy restaurants, I absolutely love the Caesar. Fancy places use good quality parmesan and I can always tell when the dressing was freshly made because it has a good amount of tang and flavor.

During our recent trip to Philly, we had an amazing brussels sprout Caesar salad and it made me crave Caesar salads for weeks afterwards. Since we had anchovies in the fridge, I decided to make a batch for dinner one night.
Ingredients [yields about ½ cup dressing]:
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire
4 anchovy fillets (in oil)
¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons grated parmesan

Start by crushing a garlic clove and adding it to a bowl along with an egg yolk, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and Worcestershire. Give it a good whisk and then add in the anchovies. I like to place the anchovies on the side of the bowl and I use a spoon to smash them into a paste before whisking it into the yolk mixture. You can do the same or you can use a mortar and pestle or you can use a food processor. There shouldn't be any visible pieces of anchovy in the dressing.
Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously as the oil is being drizzled. This is how you create an emulsion. Basically, you're evenly suspending little droplets of oil in the seasoned yolks, yielding a thickened sauce. Add enough oil to give the dressing some body and to thicken it.
Whisk in a little honey and stir in some parmesan and black pepper.
Store the dressing in an air tight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
To assemble a Caesar salad, you'll need greens, croutons, and parmesan shavings. The croutons are essential. I like using stale bread (in this case, I used a stale breakfast biscuit), drizzling the cubes with olive oil, and then adding it bits of crushed garlic to perfume the croutons. I toast the croutons in a 400F oven for about 5 minutes, or until the edges go brown and crisp.
The typical greens used in Caesar is romaine lettuce but I used baby kale this time around because it's what we had at Abe Fisher's and because it's what we had in the fridge. Kale is hearty so it stands up to this heavy dressing quite well and can even be dressed ahead of time without getting overly wilty. And I think it's a nice alternative; romaine lettuce can be so watery.

Toss the greens in your desired amount of dressing - I like just enough to coat each leaf - and then garnish with croutons and parmesan shavings.
This salad is bright and briny and salty and cheesy and delicious. It's a bit decadent and not exactly the healthiest salad in the world, but it's a great once-in-a-while side dish.
Here's the recipe page:

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