Thursday, May 27, 2010

HAIL CAESAR SALAD

HAIL CAESAR SALAD
To Egg Or Not To Egg
That Is The Question


You never forget your first love…

When I first hit Manhattan to tilt at windmills, I didn’t know foie gras from liverwurst. I was raised to eat healthful, balanced meals and Mom’s dinners were the traditional three-point plates: meat/chicken/fish, a starch (rice or potato) and a veggie. ‘Fancy’ food was not part of my parents’ everyday food lexicon (we did have caviar and/or ‘lumpfish’ on toast points for holidays and special occasions, though – but that’s a Finnish thing)…

Salads consisted of iceberg lettuce w/ tomatoes, sometimes chopped onion or green pepper and “store bought” croutons. Bottled Italian dressing was the dressing of choice in our house. Blue cheese dressing was something you got in a restaurant. I’d never heard of romaine lettuce and, as far as I knew, parmesan cheese only came in a cylindrical green container w/ holes on top so you could shake it onto spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta was mac & cheese or spaghetti w/ red sauce. In fact, I don’t think I even knew the word ‘pasta’… It was “spaghetti” or “lasagna” or “ravioli” (usually from a can – but only for lunch)… not “pasta.”

So, even though I was out of college and on my own, I was still food ignorant. But my education began to grow. One of my first food lessons came when I ordered a Caesar salad at Kenny’s Steak Pub, a popular ‘joint’ on Lexington Avenue usually filled with the Friar’s Club crowd of theatrical agents, comics, nightclub singers, et al.

What a revelation! My first taste of romaine! Freshly grated parmesan and shaved slices of parmesan! Homemade garlic croutons! Anchovies! The taste of fresh lemon in the dressing! Olive oil! And more garlic! Raw egg! (What?!?) A whole new salad world was opened to me! I loved it! I had to have the recipe for the dressing.

A zillion varieties of salads later, including a zillion variations on the Caesar salad alone, I still think Kenny’s Steak Pub Caesar was the best salad I’ve ever tasted… It was a first love that didn’t break your heart.

The question now is, w/ all the controversy over raw eggs… To egg or not to egg? I don’t know about you, but I still egg.
However, if you have qualms about using raw eggs because of the possibility of salmonella, then don’t.
But if you have qualms but want to use the egg yet lessen the risk, I suggest you ‘coddle.’ Coddling will cause the yolk to become slightly thickened and warm, which when whisked in the dressing gives it a creamy texture.

Coddling Directions:

Bring a fresh egg to room temperature by immersing it in warm water. If you don’t, the egg might crack when coddled.

Place the egg in a small bowl and pour boiling water around the egg until it’s covered, then let stand for exactly one (1) minute. Immediately run cold water into the bowl until the egg can be easily handled. Carefully remove the egg from the shell, then whisk it into the rest of the Caesar salad dressing (recipe below).

If you want to “coddle” you egg in a microwave, crack the shell and put it into a small bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for 15 seconds. This will cook the egg slightly, yet leave it runny.
Put the egg in some ice water to stop cooking, then carefully remove it from the shell and whisk it into the Caesar dressing.

Note: If you want to learn a method for pasteurizing your eggs to make them safe, Check out www.culinaryarts.about.com/od/eggsdairy/ht/pasteurize_eggs.htm


KENNY’S STEAK PUB
CAESAR SALAD DRESSING


Ingredients:

Romaine lettuce
Parmesan cheese
Anchovies (drained of all oil if from a can – pat off excess oil w/ paper towel)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 peeled garlic clove minced/chopped/smashed
1 egg


Directions:

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and garlic in a bowl. When mixed well, add the egg and whisk till it’s completely blended into the dressing. (If you want to make the dressing earlier in the day, do NOT add the egg till it’s time to dress & serve the salad.)

In the salad bowl grate fresh parmesan (as much as you want) onto the lettuce and toss. Add the dressing and croutons and toss again. Top w/ shaved parmesan slices and anchovies.

If you want (this is what I usually do if everyone likes anchovies), you can cut up the anchovies and toss them in the salad when you add the dressing and croutons. This allows that salty fish flavor to permeate the salad. Yum!

2 comments:

pearliesgirl said...

Sounds great Ilona. I egg, and I always order extra anchovy (not just in the dressing). Our favorite recipe is from Vincent Price's fabulous cookbook from the early 60's. My favorite Caesar salads in restaurants are those that are prepared tableside (like a good steak tartare). In fact, put those two dishes together and I'm in heaven. (p.s. our pasta was Franco American Spaghetti. On toast. My thighs are still paying the price.)

ilona saari said...

LOL -- I hear ya - when I was a kid I also really loved Franco American spaghetti! I've heard a lot about Price's cookbook, I must get it for Richard! And when a restaurant makes a caesar salad at the table - doesn't it just smell soooo heavenly - the fresh garlic, the lemon juice... Yum!