Photo of a deconstructed Caesar salad

Caesar’s Salad

The first bite of crisp and crunchy romaine lettuce, the Parmesan, croutons not out of a box and the sublime dressing blending lemon, egg and anchovies sort of defies description.

Isn’t just saying or thinking about Caesar salad enough to conjure up its flavors?

I’m a big fan of Caesar Cardini’s 1924 invention. I’ve ordered it probably hundreds of times, yet it’s not a go-to in my kitchen.

In the pre-pandemic days of Sunday suppers with friends, I made the deconstructed version recipe I’m sharing. It’s outside the norm with bacon, Roquefort cheese and coddled eggs but sticks to tradition with the dressing.

Italian immigrant Cardini was a restaurateur in San Diego who expanded to Tijuana, primarily because Mexico wasn’t subject to American Prohibition laws.

On July 4, 1924, the rush practically depleted the food in his Caesar’s restaurant in the Hotel Caesar, so he rustled up what he had on hand and the Caesar salad was born.

He amped up the humble ingredients – romaine, eggs, olive oil, lemons, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese and black pepper – by tossing the salad tableside. Seems the original version didn’t have anchovies, relying on the Worcestershire sauce for that flavor. The leaves were consumed whole, meant to be eaten stem to tip with coddled eggs, Parmesan and dressing as filling.

A few seats are available in three upcoming classes: Feb. 2 Edible Art – Valentine Cookie Decorating, Feb. 8 The Art of Plating and Feb. 9 Celebrating Chinese New Year of the Tiger. Come join the fun!

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,

Photo of Caesar Cardini

Deconstructed Caesar Salad
Yield: 6 servings

6 thick-cut slices applewood smoked bacon
6 large eggs
12 ½-inch thick baguette slices, diagonally cut
Good olive oil
1 large garlic clove, cut in half
1 lb. hearts of romaine lettuce, washed and thoroughly dried
8 oz. Roquefort cheese, cut in chunks
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oven to 375°F.
2. On a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the bacon in a single layer. Bake 25-30 minutes, until browned and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and when cool, cut into large pieces. Set aside.
3. Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 3 ½ minutes. Remove from pan and immediately place in a bowl of cold water for 2 minutes. Peel and slice in half lengthwise.
4. Arrange bread on a sheet pan and brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then rub each one with cut side of garlic clove. Set aside.
5. Place romaine leaves on a platter, top with bacon pieces, then blue cheese, then eggs. Drizzle on dressing, season with salt and pepper, topping with garlic toast. Serve at room temperature with extra dressing on the side.

Yield: 2 ½ cups

1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
8-10 anchovy fillets
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups olive oil
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the egg yolk, mustard, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth. With the processor running, slowly pour oil through the feed tube and process until thick. Add Parmesan and pulse 3 times to combine.

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