PERFECT PARTIES

PERFECT PARTIES

by Chef Ira at www.partychef.ca

A Busy Host's Best Friend - The Ultimate Caesar Salad

The Ultimate Recipe for Caesar Salad

Contrary to popular beliefs I inherited my gift for hosting and cooking from my Dad. In fact my father was the first Rotenberg patriarch to cross the maternal Russian/Polish dominated space (in at least 7 generations I researched) in the kitchen but I should say for parties only. This is relevant because the Caesar Salad was the most common menu item in his somewhat limited repertoire of things to serve to his guests. His recipe followed the classic Italian preparation which included a raw egg, olive oil, pressed garlic cloves (lots!), lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese and anchovies.

 

I was never to fond of his dressing as it was salty from the anchovy, somewhat slimy from the weakly whisked egg and dominated by the taste of garlic from what I know now was too many cloves. The importance of this all was that I was motivated to create my own recipe since I liked the fundamentals of the salad so when I started cooking at thirteen this was one of my first innovations.

 

The first round of innovation was to omit the anchovy and use a blender to try and get rid of the somewhat slimy texture from the egg whites. Too my surprise the result of beating oil and egg was a thicker and creamier texture similar to the process of creating mayonnaise. I now use a hand blending wand in a mixing cup to achieve the desired viscosity; not too thick but not too thin either and you can use the Parmesan cheese to control the target viscosity a little bit at a time if unsure.

 

The second round of innovation was to mix egg, vegetable oil rather than olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove (note singular) first and then gradually add in the Parmesan cheese rather than everything together. I still found the taste a little too sharp from the lemon juice so my third round of innovation was to replace the lemon juice with white wine vinegar and to add in a pinch of brown sugar to soften the sharpness. Coincidentally I was adding sugar to most of my recipes at the time as I found it worked well for recipes for things like spaghetti sauce.

 

So that is how I ended up with the ultimate Caesar Salad recipes. Over the last 35 years I have tried probably every variation and I still come back to my old recipe that emerged somewhere around 1976. I think the Caesar Salad is a host's best friend because it is so easy, quick to prepare and better yet cheap, specially while the cost of fresh and organic vegetables are escalating. Its also my favourite salad to eat when I just want a light lunch and it can be made into a quick meal my adding in some grilled prawns or chicken or salmon or even BBQ Smoked Beef Brisket (more about brisket in a later blog).

 

So more to the basics of the actual recipe. The salad consists of Romaine Lettuce, Croutons, Salad Dressing and Parmesan Cheese. One large full head of Romaine lettuce will serve up to 6 people as a side salad or 4 people as a main salad. This is an important ratio when trying to calculate how many heads of Romaine are required. Romaine Lettuce Hearts, bought in a bag of 3-6 heads, is different because the heart is about 50% of the original stock. In both cases cut the first 2 inches off to get rid of the top leafy part (bitter and wilts easy) and split the head down the length of the lettuce and then cut horizontally across the half of lettuce 1-1.5 inches in thickness at a time. The chopped lettuce can be stored in a bowl or bag until it is required.

 

The Caesar Dressing requires the following ingredients (serves up to 8 people):

  1. 1 Egg - refrigerated so its cold when mixed
  2. 1 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
  3. 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar
  4. 1 finely chopped clove of garlic
  5. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  6. 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
  7. 1 pinch (1 tsp) of brown sugar
  8. 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese

 

Note: The dressing should be prepared at least 1 hour before being ready to be mixed in with the salad. Beat all the ingredients together, with the exception of Parmesan cheese, in a narrow measuring cup in a pulse like mode to allow the oil to mix with the air until the mixtures thickens. Then add the Parmesan cheese and beat again for a few seconds to mix the cheese into the dressing. Do not mix the dressing into the salad until 10 minutes before being served so the salad doesn't become wilted and lifeless.

 

Just before serving first mix the chopped salad with 1/3 cup of croutons and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix in 2/3 of the prepared dressing for the equivalent of two large heads of romaine lettuce and make sure the lettuce and croutons or coated by gently tossing the salad. If required add in more dressing and mix again. Top with a few more croutons and about 2 tablespoons of fresh flaked Parmesan cheese.

 

Enjoy!

Chef Ira @ www.partychef.ca

 

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