A Caesar Salad fit for a Czar!
Updated: Jun 23
While it makes for a catchy title, this blog could more accurately be named 'A Caesar Salad that would have been fit for a Czar!", for it is thought to have been created in 1924 and the last Russian Czar died in 1918. So this salad has NOTHING to do with Russians or Czars. Nor does it have anything to do with Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, or the Romans. This salad was actually invented in Tijuana, Mexico, which seems like a rather unlikely place for the birth of this, now, "classic Italian" salad. Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant born near Italy's Lake Maggiore, is credited with the creation of this salad. He lived in San Diego in the 1920s but launched a restaurant, named "Caesar's", in Tijuana, Mexico to bypass the prohibition restrictions of that time and allow him to serve alcohol at his establishment. There, he concocted this salad by combining garlic, Worcestershire sauce, raw eggs, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, romaine lettuce, and croutons. Interestingly Cardini's original recipe did NOT contain anchovies. The slight anchovy flavor was imparted from the Worcestershire sauce.
Later, anchovies were added to the recipe by Caesar's brother, Alessandro, who renamed it 'Aviator's Salad' in honor of his friends for whom he made it. Various theories exist of who exactly originated the modernly known 'Caesar Salad', those being Caesar, Alessandro, or even an employee at Caesar's restaurant. Whomever the true originator, Caesar Cardini claimed it for himself with the inclusion of anchovies!
The recipe I am sharing with you is one that we have been making for 20+ years and learned at an Italian restaurant while living in Dallas, TX. This was an upscale, Italian restaurant that proudly featured their Caesar Salad. They rolled a big cart up to the table with all the ingredients displayed, made their dressing in a great wooden bowl, and ultimately tossed the lettuce leaves in a showy spectacle. Having dined there many times we learned their recipe as they flaunted their ingredients and tableside technique for the customer to clearly see. We carefully observed them at the restaurant and then mimicked them at home. Now, this has become a staple addition to my dinner repertoire.
This Caesar dressing is emulsified with an egg. Whereas both the restaurant in which we learned this recipe, along with Cardini's original recipe, used a raw egg, I choose to lightly cook it in boiling water for two minutes to decrease the risk of Salmonella bacterial infection; although the yolk will still be runny. Also, I always use pasteurized eggs and keep them refrigerated to minimize the inherent risk.
To be honest, we have made this recipe for so many years and we never measured out the ingredients. Much of the recipe was based on texture and consistency, knowing the key ingredients. When we last made it, I measured the volumes and quantities that we used so that I can share them with you. The dressing can range from a mild, light vinaigrette to a bold, thick paste. We thicken ours with a lot of freshly grated parmesan because we love the sharpness and bite that the Parmesan offers. You will see the consistency of our dressing in the videos below. We also add a lot of anchovies because of the intense flavor and saltiness that the anchovies impart. You may like it with more/less garlic, anchovy, acidity, sharpness, etc. Feel free to modify the recipe to suit YOUR taste.
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 small cloves garlic; pressed
~ 6 quality anchovies, (+extra to garnish the surface, optional)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg YOLK; after boiling for 2 minutes
Great quality Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Black pepper, freshly ground
(Parmesan shavings, optional)
Pour 1/3 cup olive oil into your wooden salad bowl. Press three cloves of garlic through a garlic press and add to the oil. Add your desired amount of anchovies. (More anchovies makes the dressing more flavorful and saltier) We add about 6. Mash ingredients together with the back of a spoon.
Squeeze the juice of a 1/2 lemon into the mixture. (More lemon juice makes the dressing more acidic and zesty) Add the Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
Boil a washed, pasteurized raw egg in water for two minutes. Carefully crack the egg in half and separate out the yolk. Add only the yolk to the mixture. Mix well with the spoon.
Freshly grate a chunk of quality Parmesan Reggiano cheese until your desired consistency is achieved. (More cheese adds more sharpness and bite) The cheese will thicken the dressing. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Tear your Romaine lettuce leaves into smaller pieces. Wash and drain well. Add the Romaine lettuce to the dressing and toss with two large spoons to work the dressing in and coat the lettuce leaves evenly. Garnish the salad with a few whole anchovies, if desired.
Above, I served my Caesar Salad with a grilled salmon topped with a dijonnaise sauce. This is a delicious meal that is on regular repeat at my table. I occasionally add homemade croutons to my salad, but in this case, opted for a warm crusty baguette instead. If you choose to top your salad off with homemade croutons, then just cut bread into cubes and toast them in a frying pan in some olive oil on the stove. Season them with black pepper. You may also choose to garnish your salad with thin shavings of Parmesan cheese. I hope you give this dressing a try. I think you will find that it is a keeper! Modify it to your taste and let me know how it worked for you in the comments section below.