I thought it only fitting for my 200th recipe that I finally relented and shared my “famous” Caesar Salad. Now I don’t like to brag (Pfffft) but I have had caesar salad many times and I have been told on many occasions that mine is the best. The key to an outstanding Caesar is in the dressing. It must not be too heavy and it must not be too light. It should not be overpowered by loads of garlic or anchovies, but subtly flavoured and it should be assembled right before serving so that the lettuce stays super crunchy. The bacon and croutons should be crispy but should still have an element of chewiness so as to maintain the right texture and maximise the flavour. The parmesan should be of the finest quality and freshly grated. It should be the perfect balance……..It should be just right.
Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 15-20 minutes $ Low Budget
1 Cos or 2 Baby cos lettuce, outer leaves removed and leaves separated and washed
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
8 anchovy fillets
2 tbs of white wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 short rindless bacon rashers, sliced very thin
3-4 slices of stale bread, cut into 1cm cubes (remove the crusts if you wish)
Olive oil for frying
1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Heat a large heavy based frypan and add the bacon with a very small amount of olive oil. Fry the bacon until golden and caramelised but not too crispy. you still want a bit of ‘chew’ to it. Once cooked remove from the pan and drain on a piece of paper towel.
In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and add the bread cubes and fry until crispy and toasted. Remove and drain on a paper towel covered plate.
Now for the dressing. I won’t lie to you, making mayonnaise from scratch can be fairly finnicky. I have had a few unsuccessful attempts over the years so if you have a blender with a whisk attachment it will make light work of it. However, in my failures I have discovered that the secret to successful mayo is the temperature of the ingredients. They MUST be at room temperature, particularly the egg yolk and oil. If your yolk and oil do split, you can salvage it by cracking another egg yolk into a clean bowl and starting the process again but there is no need to discard the split stuff. You just add it to the new batch and have a richer, lovelier mayonnaise.
So to get started place your garlic and anchovies in a mortar and pestle and grind to a nice paste. In a large clean mixing bowl whisk your egg yolk with 1 drop of oil to start with. Repeat with another drop and so on until the yolk starts to thicken. Once thickening add the rest of the oil in a thin, steady stream until the mayo starts to firm up and looks a little like room temperature butter. If you are using a processor or mixer this will be a piece of cake however, you will not have achieved the level of satisfaction from the serious arm workout you have just had.
Add the anchovy & garlic paste to the mayonnaise along with the lemon juice and vinegar. Whisk well to combine and the mixture should be quite a bit thinner. Have a taste and adjust the lemon juice or vinegar if necessary. It should have a lovely sharp tang to it. Season with a little salt and pepper.
To assemble the salad, paint the individual salad leaves with the dressing and arrange like a large blossoming flower in a shallow bowl. Once your flower is done you can drizzle over a little extra dressing or else serve more dressing on the side for those that like it drowning. Scatter over the fresh parmesan and top with the bacon and croutons. Finally sprinkle over the chopped parsley and a sprinkling of ground black pepper and serve immediately.
You can also serve this with grilled chicken or prawns or with a soft poached egg. I personally love it just the way it is…… Classic.