Saturday, November 11, 2006

Best Caesar Salad

from Cook's Ilustrated

This really produces a great salad. I used anchovy fillets instead of paste. The best anchovy fillets are the ones packed in oil by Ortiz. After you open a tin of them, store the remainder, including the oil, in the freezer. --Pamela

If you don't own a garlic press, chop the garlic for both the croutons and dressing by hand; sprinkle it with the salt and then continue mincing it until it is almost pureed. The garlic and anchovies in the dressing are optional but strongly recommended. Without them, the salad is a bit bland. For Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, add two grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise into half-inch strips, to the salad along with the cheese.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course

Garlic Croutons
2 large cloves garlic , peeled and pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch white bread cubes (from a baguette or country loaf)

Caesar Salad
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 grindings ground black pepper
1 small clove garlic , pressed (1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 4 flat anchovy fillets, minced)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium heads romaine lettuce (large outer leaves removed) or 2 large romaine hearts; washed, dried, and torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 cups, lightly packed)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix garlic, salt, and oil in small bowl; set aside for 20 minutes. Spread bread cubes out over small baking sheet. Drizzle oil through fine-mesh strainer evenly onto bread; toss to coat. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet to room temperature. (Croutons can be stored in airtight container for up to 1 day.)

2. For the dressing: Bring water to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Carefully lower whole egg into water; cook 45 seconds.* (See my note at the bottom of the page. --Pamela) Remove with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack egg into small bowl with all other dressing ingredients except oil; whisk until smooth. Add oil in slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Adjust seasonings. (Dressing may refrigerate in airtight container for 1 day; shake before using.)

3. Place lettuce in large bowl; drizzle with half of dressing, then toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining dressing, and croutons; toss to coat well. Divide among individual plates; serve immediately.

*I've never been totally sure what the desired outcome for the coddled egg is supposed to be. Partially cooked egg white, totally cooked egg white, etc. For this recipe I think I would cook the egg about 90 seconds so that most of the white gets cooked otherwise I think there is too much liquid in the dressing. --Pamela

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