Caesar Salad With Quick Garlic Croutons – by Pamela Anderson

30 Mar

One of my favourite authors is Pamela Anderson (no, not the celeb, but the chef). She singlehandly made my birthday party a tremendous success (food wise, of course). Her book (which I still have to review), Perfect Recipes for Having People Over was instrumental in food and party planning, the creation of the much praised apptizer bar, made food prep easy and seamless, and reminded me that the point of hosting a great party is not about churning out food like a restaurant, but making it easy, delicious and enjoying yourself with your guests. Even better, her recipes are foolproof. They came out perfect the first time, and I’m sure for everytime as well.

If you are, like  me, sick of dressing drenched sour and overpowering caesar salads, try the one below. This is exactly what I had for afternoon tea at the Pinnesula Hotel in Hong Kong. To die for!

***

Caesar Salad With Quick Garlic Croutons

(from Cook Smart, Perfect Recipes for Everyday)

Reviving a classic

Most “Caesar salads” are messes unworthy of the name. Today, revisit the fresh, lemony original — and eat it with your fingers, as the creator intended.

After tasting a Caesar salad made from the recipe passed on to Julia Child by the creator’s daughter, I could not recall having eaten a better one.

Unlike many of today’s loud, leaden Caesar dressings that drench the lettuce, this one was light and fresh. Whole, tender romaine heart leaves were mixed with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, then tossed with a coddled egg (one that’s been dropped in boiling water for a minute or so), some lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce, followed by a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and real garlic croutons. The flavors were pleasantly tart, clean and restrained. The only garlic in the salad was from the oil that perfumed the croutons; the only anchovy was an ingredient in the Worcestershire sauce.

I wanted a salad that tasted like the original, but without the raw egg so many of us avoid today for safety reasons. After many attempts — from substituting soft tofu to cooking the yolks to a safe temperature with white wine and vinegar — I finally discovered that a few tablespoons of commercial mayonnaise made a perfect stand-in for the raw egg.

In keeping with the classic salad, I added no anchovy flavoring beyond the Worcestershire sauce. And because raw garlic easily dominates almost anything, I tried to omit it as well. But in developing a quick garlic oil for sautéing the croutons, I found the garlic lost its harsh bite when puréed with the oil in the food processor. So I used garlic-infused oil for sautéing the croutons (any garlic bits will burn fast, so strain them out of the oil). And I used half of the puréed garlic remaining in my sieve to flavor the dressing. For those who decide to turn this Caesar into a main-course salad, the other half of the minced garlic can be used to flavor chicken, beef or shrimp before tossing in those additions.

Try to buy packages of prewashed romaine lettuce hearts to save even more time on busy nights. If you’re not serving the salad with chicken, steak or shrimp, feel free to leave the leaves whole and eat the salad with your fingers, as the creator — Cesar Cardini, who owned a popular restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico — intended.

I love this Caesar salad. Both of my teenage daughters do, too. In fact, they say they love it so much they could eat it every night. It’s so quick to make that I could see whether they’re right! Safe, simple, scrumptious Caesar — it doesn’t get more perfect than that.

Contributing Editor Pam Anderson is the author of “CookSmart” (Houghton Mifflin, $28).


Caesar Salad With Quick Garlic Croutons

For the croutons:
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heaping cups bread cubes, cut from a good-quality baguette or Italian loaf (each cube should be 3/4 of an inch)
Large pinch of salt

For the salad:
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Generous 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 Tbs. mayonnaise
Half of the garlic reserved from preparing the croutons
3 large romaine lettuce hearts, leaves separated and left whole (or cut into bite-size pieces, if you prefer)
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano), plus extra for sprinkling

Croutons: Heat a 10-inch skillet over low heat. With food processor (or blender) running, drop garlic through the feeder tube (or lid). Scrape down sides of bowl or canister. With machine running, add olive oil. Continue to process so garlic releases its flavor into the oil, about 30 seconds.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain garlic from oil. Reserve half of the minced garlic for the dressing. You should have about 3 Tbs. of oil.

Increase skillet heat to medium. Place bread cubes in medium bowl. Drizzle 2 Tbs. oil evenly over bread, along with a big pinch of salt; toss to coat. Add remaining oil; toss again. Add bread cubes to hot skillet and toast, turning the cubes and shaking the pan often, until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Return croutons to bowl and set aside to cool while preparing salad.

Salad: Whisk lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and half of the reserved garlic in a small bowl. Place prepared lettuce in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle lemon mixture over lettuce; toss. Add cheese; toss again. Add croutons; toss and serve, sprinkling each portion with a little more cheese.

Serves: 4.
Per serving: 395 calories, 7g protein, 18g carbohydrates, 33g fat (5g saturated), 3g fiber, 473mg sodium.

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