Who doesn’t love Caesar salad? Surprisingly, Caesar salad was created in Tijuana, Mexico, in the early 1900s by Chef Caesar Cardini. Since then, Caesar salad has become a staple on most restaurants’ menus.
The salad typically consists of romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese and some variation of the classic Caesar dressing. The original version of Caesar dressing consists of egg yolk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and black pepper. I personally consider Caesar dressing variations to be infinite in number.
One chef who I found has made the Caesar salad particularly interesting is Stephen Starr, the great restaurateur of the City of Brotherly Love. He features many variations of the salad at his soon-to-be 18 restaurants in the Philadelphia area. Whether it’s an Asian Caesar salad at Buddakan or an upscale Caesar salad at Barclay Prime, it’s always done with finesse. I was particularly upset when Starr removed his well-known delicious Caesar salad from the Continental Midtown and Continental menus over a year ago. The salad featured a light version of Caesar dressing tossed with small slices of romaine, under which lay a perfect Parmesan crisp.
I am going to attempt to recreate the lightness of Continental’s Caesar, while remaining true to things I find important in the salad. I’m going to create a nutty-tangy dressing that will be tossed with romaine hearts, accompanied by some beautiful baked croutons and tucked inside a crunchy Parmesan shell. It’s to die for.
-Romaine lettuce (hearts)
- 1 baguette
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
- 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/4 tablespoon anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the dressing:
Place the egg yolk, lemon juice and zest, anchovy paste, mustard, garlic and water into a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are combined. Slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube while pulsing. Finally, add the grated cheese, salt and pepper, then pulse until combined.
For the salad, croutons, and “Cheese Cup”:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the romaine hearts into small bite-size pieces and set aside. Slice the baguette into small chunks the size of a crouton; toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the baguette pieces onto a baking sheet and place in the oven for 12 minutes; toss every five minutes.
Meanwhile, place the finely grated cheese onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, spread into a thin circle, and bake in the oven for four minutes. The cheese will be slightly brown and bubbly. Remove the cheese from the oven and let cool for one minute. Carefully remove it from the baking sheet with a spatula, and stuff the circle into a muffin pan, creating a cup. Let that cool. Immediately before plating, toss the romaine pieces with enough dressing to coat.
Place the cheese cup onto the plate and fill the cup with the dressed romaine. Place a few of the freshly baked croutons onto the plate beside it. Enjoy!