Caesar Salad Recipe

 image via BBC GoodFood

Although I don't like fish (won't go near it, actually) I do love a good Caesar salad. When my sister and I were in high school, my parents took us to a celebratory dinner of some sort to The Cheesecake Factory. Logan and I decided to split the Caesar salad, and raved the entire time about how yummy it was! My parents just sat across the table laughing hysterically at us, and we couldn't figure out why. (If any of you know my parents, this is very unlike them. I recall Mom laughing so hard she was almost in tears.) After the bowl was (literally) licked clean by Logan and I, my mom confessed the reason she was laughing so hard is because of the (strong smell of) fish in the salad! She couldn't believe we didn't know anchovies were a crucial part of Caesar salad, and that is why it tasted so good. She told us as soon as the salad came to the table she and Dad could smell the anchovies in it, but because we didn't notice, they didn't say a word. How's that for getting your kids to eat fish?

Needless to say, I still love Caesar salad. I just try to forget there are tiny little ground up fish in there! This past week my favorite meal was a homemade chicken Caesar salad. I made the dressing from scratch, and boy was it yummy! 

For my birthday, Tyler got me The Best of America's Test Kitchen cookbooks (2009 and 2010 editions). I love love love them! They not only have excellent recipes, but they teach you why they are excellent. For the Caesar salad recipe, for example, it goes into detail about the balance needed for the dressing. They used mayonnaise instead of the typical raw egg to food safety reasons, cut the lemon juice drastically, and used just a hint of garlic. The blended it in the blender to "ensure a stable dressing that didn't separate". Basically the cookbook is a cookbook AND a good read. Basically my theory of cooking is this: If I'm going to put the effort into trying your recipe, you better have a good explanation of why it is better. This entire cookbook does just that.

Here's the Caesar salad recipe for you. I made a few slight changes: instead of parmesan cheese (which is soooo expensive!) my mom taught me to just buy the giant block of pecorino romano cheese from Costco. The block is humongous and it costs under $10. (Note on that: to keep it fresher longer, break up the block into 3-4 pieces and individually wrap them in plastic wrap. Put these all in a ziploc bag and use one small block at a time.) Also, I couldn't bear the thought of tiny fish in a can. Gross. So I bought anchovy paste, which is actually nicely priced (around $2 for the tube). 2 anchovies are equal to 1/2 tsp. paste. And the paste keeps for a long time in the fridge, whereas the can of tiny, nasty fish has to be used up right away. Convenient and cheap!

Caesar Salad
1/2 tsp. each Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese + 1 cup grated
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry*
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine olive oil and garlic. Set aside. Blend all other ingredients together until smooth. Slowly add olive oil mixture until incorporated. Toss with romaine and shredded parmesan. (Enough for 3 romaine hearts - about 12 cups.)

*Again, I used the anchovy paste. My super-duper cookbook says that "after a head-to-head tasting of our recipe prepared with equal amounts of anchovy paste and anchovy fillets, we found little difference. Though a few astute tasters felt that the paste had a "saltier" and "slightly more fishy" flavor, in such small quantities it was deemed an acceptable substitute. For dishes that use just a touch of anchovy, the squeeze-and-go convenience of the tube can't be beat." (The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2009, page 29).

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