The History of the Caesar Salad and How to Make it
Filed Under: Health & Science, Lifestyle | Posted: 11/02/2008 at 1:23AM
Comments | Region: Alabama | United States
History of the Caesar Salad
1924 – Most historians believe that Caesar salad honors restaurateur Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who invented it in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924 on the Fourth of July weekend. It is said that on this busy weekend, Cardini was running low on food and he put together a salad for his guests from what was left over in the kitchen. His original recipe included romaine, garlic, croutons, and Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. The original salad was prepared at tableside. When the salad dressing was ready, the romaine leaves were coated with the dressing and placed stem side out, in a circle and served on a flat dinner plate, so that the salad could be eaten with the fingers.
In 1926, Alex Cardini joined his brother, Caesar, at the Tijuana restaurant. Alex, an ace pilot in the Italian Air Force during World War I, added other ingredients, one of which was anchovies, and named the salad Aviator’s Salad" in honor of the pilots from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego. It is reported that Alex’s version became very popular, and later this salad was renamed "Caesar Salad." Caesar was said to be staunchly against the inclusion of anchovies in this mixture, contending that the Worcestershire sauce was what actually provided that faint fishy flavor. He also decreed that only Italian olive oil and imported Parmesan cheese be used in the dressing.
1/2 to 3/4 cup croutons (see directions below)
1 coddled egg (see directions below)*
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (1 to 2 medium cloves with inner green germ removed)
1 anchovy fillet, mashed**
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tablespoons (1/2 lemon) freshly squeezed lemon juice***
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano), divided
1 head Romaine lettuce, hearts and tender leaves only
Coarsely ground black pepper
* Coddled egg may be substituted with 1/2 cup mayonnaise. If doing this substitution, reduce some of the olive oil.
** Use only good-quality Spanish or Portuguese anchovies in your dressing. Anchovy paste may be substituted (approximately two inches squeezed from the tube will provide the equivalent taste of one anchovy fillet).
*** Fresh lemon juice is essential. Some chefs squeeze the lemon through a cheesecloth to ensure that only the juice ends up in the salad. If you are careful to keep the lemon seeds out of the salad, a simple squeeze will do.
To make croutons: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Trim the crust from day-old peasant-style bread (Italian or French bread) and dice into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss with enough olive oil to coat, but not drench. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, give the pan a shake to make sure the croutons toast evenly. Remove from oven and completely cool croutons. Store in an airtight container.
To coddle egg: Coddling causes the yolk to become slightly thickened and warm. Bring a very fresh egg to room temperature by immersing it in warm water (otherwise it might crack when coddled). Place the egg in a small bowl or mug and pour boiling water around the egg until it is covered. Let stand for exactly 1 minute. Immediately run cold water into the bowl until the egg can be easily handled; set aside.
To make dressing: In a bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy, and salt until blended. Whisk in the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk in the coddled egg until the mixture is thick, approximately 1 minute (this enable the lemon juice to "cook" the eggs). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil with one hand while vigorously whisking the mixture with the other. When the dressing is well combined, whisk in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese.
To assemble salad: Separate the Romaine leaves and discard the coarse outer leaves. Wash, drain, and pat with paper towels or spin dry the remaining leaves. Note: Lettuce should be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use. Tear into bite-size pieces and set aside.
In a large wooden salad bowl, add 1/3 of the dressing and toss with the croutons until well coated. Add the Romaine lettuce pieces and the remaining dressing; toss until coated.
To serve: Divide the salad between two chilled plates and sprinkle each salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and coarsely ground pepper. Serve immediately with chilled forks.
Makes 2 to 4 servings (depending on serving sizes)