This column originally ran in a Jan. 7, 2016 edition of the Bayside Gazette.
Caesar Salad. Wow. Where to begin?
It was November, 1984. It wasn’t long after I earned my license and started working my first job in Annapolis, the Chart House. But it was the first time that I had experienced one of the truest food-loves of my life; the salad eponymous with the man stabbed on the Ides of March by Brutus himself.
The school year was dragging on, despite the fact that we had only been in session for a mere three months. You see, I hated school – with a passion. I was not a good student until I spent some time in the Marine Corps and realized that there just might be something else out there … or maybe it was the constant prodding and nagging of my well-meaning late mother, but I digress.
My brother Danny and I had been afforded the opportunity to join our parents in Florida at the Barefoot Mailman, an interesting oceanfront inn that looked as though it was going to provide shelter for the week. But Mother Nature had different plans.
Danny and I spent a 16-hour shift changing hands at the wheel (I was a brand-new driver and he was a “seasoned” second-year driver) of the le Mans that had well-over 200,000 miles on it, and we cruised all the way to Florida.
That was my first time to the Sunshine State, and I can’t emphasize enough how excited I was. All that I could imagine were the girls and margaritas that I had heard about. Of course, I was 6’0” and 130 pounds soaking-wet, so I understood the odds, but the sights as trees turned from oak to palm were insurmountable in my tiny brain.
Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” was cranking at that point, and we must have heard it 30 times on the way down. Even as I wasn’t an Eagles fan, or a Henley fan for that matter, that song still takes me back to that entire trip; not a moment in that trip, but the entire ride.
We landed at the Barefoot Mailman, and then the rain started. In fact, that’s precisely the point at which the hurricane made its landfall. And it never ended. It went on for the entire week, but our parents took us to a Chart House in the area and we ate well; very well as a matter of fact.
And you will never guess what I had to start our meal off.
2-3 Hearts of Romaine
2 cup Croutons (recipe follows)
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
3/4 cup Caesar Dressing, or to taste (recipe follows)
- Most romaine hearts sold in bags these days are washed on the farm, thus precluding the need to do so yourself. However, if you are a germaphobe, “type-A thorough” or a clean-freak, please feel free to clean the lettuce by cutting into large, bite-size pieces, rinsing well and then drying
- Mix everything together, serve on plates, and garnish with a little extra parmesan and croutons.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups Diced bread, assorted
1/2 cup Melted whole butter, unsalted
1/2 tsp. Dried thyme
1/2 tsp. Granulated garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Place the bread on a baking sheet and place in a 350° oven until dried about halfway
- Remove and allow to cool
- Melt the butter, add the thyme, garlic, salt & pepper and then toss the diced bread in this
- Put back on the sheet pan and bake until crispy, golden and delicious
- Set aside until ready to serve
Makes about 2 cups
2 ea. Egg yolks
1 tsp. Anchovy paste or 2 filets
2 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 cup EV Olive oil
1/4 cup Grated parmesan cheese
Black pepper, to taste
- This is probably the most important step, so pay attention! Use pasteurized egg yolks only. If you can’t find them in a store there are two methods for pasteurizing, as follow:
- The first method is to cook the eggs sous vide (if you’re lucky enough to own a Jewel or Anova sous vide cooker or a Sous Vide Supreme for that matter
- The second method is to take a cheater shortcut, although I will not and cannot ethically put my name to it despite the fact that it has been printed in many cookbooks and textbooks over the few past decades. I will tell you that I have used this method, and have eaten many salads with dressing made from this method … but this is up to you
- Place the whole eggs in cold water. Heat on a stove and bring to 142 degrees
- Hold them here for three minutes and then cool immediately
- There are two proteins in the egg whites; one of which starts to cook at this temperature. It will not affect the end result and safety is the priority
- Separate the yolks and place in a bowl
- Whisk vigorously and add anchovy, garlic, mustard and lemon
- While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil to form the emulsion that results in a creamy Caesar (we have no time for that “Caesar vinaigrette” garbage)
- Finish with the parmesan and pepper and either serve immediately or let it rest a spell. It gets better with age.