Sunday, October 24, 2010

Classic Caesar Salad with a Neo-Classic Dressing

I’m a big fan of the classics. Any classic. Pearls. A little black dress. Red roses. Shakespeare. Beef Wellington. And a great Caesar salad. But I’ve often been disappointed when I order one at a restaurant. The romaine’s wilted, or there’s too much dressing, making the croutons soggy.

Before I go on, I must confess that I have no problem with two of what are considered standard ingredients in a classic Caesar salad: anchovies and coddled, sometimes raw, eggs. For one thing, I get my eggs farm fresh from my neighbor Dude’s roaming free chickens. For another, I’m always well-stocked with good quality anchovies thanks to a sister who always stuffs my Christmas stocking. (Although there were sardineslast year. What’s up with that?)

I know that anchovies are just one of those things that people either love or hate, with the majority in the hate camp. (I love a Julia Child quote I just ran across: “If you don’t like anchovies, well, that’s just too bad.”) And if someone is particularly belligerent about the point, I’ll delight in shocking them by saying, “You didn’t know there are anchovies in that Worcestershire sauce?”

My renewed interest in Caesar salad was ignited a few weeks ago when I helped my sister – not the anchovy-giver – with the end-of-season cleaning at the family’s summer cottage on Lake Erie. After a few hours of dismantling and putting away, she treated me to a delightful lunch at a very nice wine and coffee bar in Westfield, NY, called Sapore.

She ordered what looked – and tasted – like one dandy Caesar salad. (While I, typically, overindulged in a “tortilla espanolla,” a decadently delicious potatoey, cheesy, garlicky frittata-like dish.) As she murmured how good her salad was, saying, “There’s nothing like a great Caesar salad,” I vowed to give it a go with maybe a cheater’s riff.

Since, in my house, I’m the only one who will dare to eat the little fishy things, I waited for a day when I’d be home alone for lunch. I had the romaine ready, crisp and chilled. I made garlic croutons, I opened my anchovies. And I was debuting a new Caesar dressing I discovered in a great new cookbook I bought called, “Raising the Salad Bar,” by Catherine Walthers.

Whirring all the dressing ingredients in a food processor makes short work, and easy emulsifying. The author also suggests a “Lemon-Anchovy Dressing” as an eggless alternative. It has the same ingredients, just no eggs. I’ve tried it, too, and it’s very good, just not quite as rich.

Classic Caesar Salad Dressing
from Catherine Walthers, “Raising the Salad Bar”
1 or 2 egg yolks
3 anchovy fillets
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Place everything but the olive oil in a food processor and process thoroughly. With the food processor still running, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper, then pulse to combine everything once more.


  1. I am sort of getting to classic food myself. Like alfredo sauce and tiramisu. Both are delicious even if a little dated. And caesar salad definitely falls into that category as well.

  2. That looks so yummy and fresh!

  3. I was at a cooking class where the chef used anchovies to make a dressing or spread - I can't remember. It was really good, even my husband who didn't want to try it enjoyed it.

  4. I love caesar dressing when it's made properly. Too often people leave out the anchovies because they have a preconceived notion that they're gross and then the dressing is flat.

    Even bottled caesar dressing includes anchovies. They just add such depth and not fishiness. Great recipe.


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