My SO and I have loved Caesar salads for a long time, and thus many years ago we made our own home-made Caesar salad following Joy of Cooking's recipe. While the dressing is quite simple, we ran into a problem: it had too much raw garlic. As you may know (if you've read many of our other recipes), we're not ones to shy away from garlic, but raw garlic can be extremely sharp, and thus a few of our early batches of dressing were too sharp to thoroughly enjoy. However, by reducing the amount of raw garlic added, and replacing it with garlic that's been simmered in oil, we've been able to keep a strong garlic flavor without risking sharpness. If you've never had a homemade (or fancy restaurant) Caesar salad, the flavor (and lack of creamy white goo) may surprise you.
This recipe includes homemade croutons, which provide extra garlic for the dressing and are tastier than typical store-bought ones, but feel free to use pre-made ones if you're in a hurry (as the rest of the salad is quick and easy to make). Since we just had this for dinner a few days ago, it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
For the croutons:
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups of ~1/2" cubes of bread (we often use whole-wheat sandwich bread, just because we have it around, but a good hearty bread like ciabatta is best)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the dressing:
Reserved garlic from the croutons
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced or pressed with a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce (the Thai ingredient) or 2-4 mashed anchovies with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 whole eggs, raw or simmered for a minute or two (see notes)
For the salad:
Romaine lettuce (or whatever greens you'd like)
Grated, shredded, or shaved Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
To make the croutons:
0. Preheat your oven to 350F.
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat.
2. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and heat long enough for the garlic to start bubbling (the garlic should not brown). Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Strain the garlic from the oil, saving both the garlic and the oil. The oil will be used to season the croutons, and the garlic will be added to the dressing.
4. Put the bread cubes into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pour the garlic oil over them. Toss to distribute the oil, salt, and pepper, and then put into a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold all the bread in a single layer.
5. Bake for ~12-20 minutes at 350F, or until the bread is golden brown, stirring every 4 minutes.
6. Set aside until ready to serve.
To make the dressing:
1. Add the reserved garlic from the crouton making (mash it into a paste, if desired), raw garlic, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce or anchovies to a salad dressing shaker (or bowl) and mix well.
2. Add the olive oil and mix until emulsified. If you're using a salad dressing shaker you can add all the oil at once and then shake vigorously until well mixed; if you're using a bowl, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream while you whisk constantly.
3. Add the eggs, and mix well.
4. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble the salad:
1. Wash the lettuce or other greens, spin (or shake) them dry, and tear or cut into bite-sized pieces.
2. Put the greens into a bowl and top with dressing, cheese, and croutons.
Aficionados of Caesar salads will note that fish sauce isn't a typical ingredient. We use it because we rarely have anchovies on hand, but we always have fish sauce. Since fish sauce is, well, fish flavored, adding a bit of it imparts the same fishy undertone that anchovies do. So, if you have anchovies on hand, by all means use them, but if you're out of anchovies feel free to use fish sauce.
Raw eggs are a standard addition to Caesar salad dressings, but they do have the potential to carry pathogens. One way to mitigate the danger of the raw eggs is to simmer them in water for a minute or two, but this does not remove all the risk. While we're willing to accept the risk of eating raw eggs, you may not be, in which case we'd advise using another recipe, as we know of no good substitution.
In a classic Caesar salad, the eggs are added to the salad separately from the dressing. This makes dressing the salad more tedious, however, and thus we prefer mixing the eggs directly into the dressing.
This makes about 1 cup of dressing. We find this is usually enough for four large (entree-sized) bowls of salad; ditto for the amount of croutons (unless you, like us, can't resist eating them, in which case this will make enough croutons for two large bowls of salad and a bit of snacking).
Rombauer, I. S., M. R. Becker, and E. Becker. 1997. Joy of Cooking. Scribner, NY.
[Updated November 2007 to clarify the garlic cooking instructions and change where the salt and pepper were added to the croutons.]