How to Make Caesar Salad from Scratch (and 3 mistakes to avoid)
This dish was originally topped with lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce (which gave the slightly anchovy-taste we all know), garlic, and black pepper but nowadays specially prepared dressing Caesar salad dressings, which have a creamy, almost mayonnaise-type texture, are available at most grocery stores.
The salad has a colorful history and is generally believed to be created by restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant living in San Diego. Legend tells that he invented the dish when, on the 4th July 1924, a rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies and he had to make do with whatever ingredients he still had on hand. He is said to have created the dish at the table for added theatrics.
Regardless of the origin, the side dish is still a popular today. But, there is no need to dine out; a Caesar salad is quick and easy to prepare, with minimal ingredients, and even fewer instructions.
Here are a few tips on how to make Caesar salad from scratch (and three mistakes to avoid) when creating this well-loved side dish
THE BASICS :
Romaine or cos lettuce, a slightly bitter variety, make up the traditional leafy green bed but feel free to mix and match with crisp iceberg, a mild endive, or include nutrient-dense greens such as kale or spinach.
Originally, Caesar salad was made from whole leaf lettuce leaves (be sure to read through three mistakes to avoid below to ensure you aren’t adding bitter leaves ), though this can be substituted with shredded leaves, and which make serving and eating much easier!
Croutons are cubed pieces of stale bread that have been toasted until golden brown and crunchy, in an induction pot or pan or oven, and add a delicious crunch to any salad.
Croutons can be bought inexpensively at most grocery stores or online, but they are also quick and easy to make at home and will have fewer preservatives, less salt and you have the options to choose your favorite seasonings.
To make your own homemade croutons, it is best to select a slightly stale bread, olive oil (or melted butter or a combination of the two), salt (sea salt is not only better for you, it has a wonderful flavour) and add your choice of herbs such as garlic, dry herbs (such as oregano, basil, or thyme).
To make, cut or tear the stale bread into cubes, and sprinkle with olive oil in a pan (induction pots and pans work well for this) or place in the oven until toasty (just a note, butter does burn faster, so use a lower heat setting and do not leave unattended).
Another Caesar salad staple; parmesan is a hard, aged cheese that is delicious freshly shredded and makes for a perfect topping. Do be sure to use freshly grated cheese if possible, as it adds much more flavor and creaminess to the dish than the packaged version.
Some people prefer to chop or blend hard-boiled egg yolks while others prefer sliced or quartered eggs to spice up the presentation but it really is your preference.
Regardless of how you slice it, a lightly boiled, or coddled, egg the perfect addition to any salad but it’s a must for a Caesar salad. Beware of overcooking eggs, which will become dry, keeping them on the soft side makes for a creamier texture (and a perfect partner for the parmesan cheese).
The original dressing is believed to be made from lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and black pepper but more options are now available to suit even the most refined taste.
When making a dressing from scratch you may want to keep the dressing simple, something easy to whip up. Alternatively, a dressing can be made by creating an emulsion of anchovies, garlic, salt, egg yolks, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and a mix of olive and vegetable oils.
Commercially produced Caesar dressings can be substituted with an oil and vinegar mix or a simple dollop of mayonnaise can make for the simplest topping.
Additions and Variations
In much the same way that the very first Caesar salad was made with whatever was on hand, so you can also add variations and additions as you so choose. Popular add-ons include grilled chicken, sliced steak, crispy bacon, seafood (such as anchovies), or capers. This list is by no means exhaustive, so add what appeals to you!
THREE MISTAKES TO AVOID :
Although, as with any favorite dish, each chef will have their own way of preparing, here are a few tricks of the trade to make sure you avoid common mistakes when making a Caesar salad.
Avoid: Bitter lettuce
The large outer leaves of the head of a lettuce can be bitter, a taste that will have a negative impact on the whole dish, so peel off the outer leaves and instead choose the smaller inner leaves.
Avoid: Raw or undercooked eggs
Although true, classic Cesar salad dressing connoisseurs call for raw eggs as an emulsifier, raw eggs do carry a risk of salmonella bacteria. This is found most often in cracked or improperly washed eggshells so either forgo the raw deal or be careful during your preparations. Additional note: raw eggs should always be avoided by infants and pregnant women.
Much of a salad’s flavor comes directly from the dressing, so this is a make or break ingredient. Be sure to dry the lettuce leaves after they are washed, and tear, don’t cut, the leaves, as these methods help to dress to adhere to the lettuce. Also, only add the dressing just before you serve the salad to avoid soggy croutons!
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Although this is the basis of the classic Caesar salad recipe, the best way to stay true to the original creator is to add what you have on hand and always be sure to add a little dramatic flair!