It has been said that Caesar salad was created by an Italian restaurateur living in Mexico during the 1920s, and was a favorite of Julia Child.
Today it is one of the more popular choices on menus and has proved to be very versatile. The basics of fresh romaine lettuce, grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, dressing and, at times, anchovy fillets, can easily accommodate extra ingredients such as grilled chicken or shrimp. However it is the anchovies that most feel strongly about - either yea or nay.
Food For Thought (FFT) spoke to several venues which feature Caesar salad to get their thoughts and tips on this perennial classic.
Panera Bread, Mineola, Rockville Centre, East Meadow
The Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad at Panera Bread is fresh, tasty and tossed with just the right amount of dressing, which includes anchovy paste, not fillets. Their mix of ingredients is key, says Greg George, vice president of operations at Panera, and features all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, Asiago Parmesan cheese and Asiago croutons. He adds that the croutons are so important that he encourages cooks to make them at home using day-old French, semolina, whole grain baguette or miche. “Trim the crust, cut into three-quarter inch cubes, toss with olive oil to coat lightly, sprinkle with salt and bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, shake pan to ensure even toasting. Cool croutons and store in an airtight container until salad time,” George said.
Seventh Street Cafe, Garden City
Seventh Street serves Caesar salad for both lunch and dinner and is a favorite at this popular Northern Italian restaurant, says manager Brian Goldman. He thinks the secret to its appeal is because the salad is “light and refreshing and simple.” Their take on Caesar dressing is a homemade Dijon anchovy lemon mixture that uses anchovy paste for their salt content instead of fillets, which Goldman says many people are not comfortable with. Meanwhile, he feels that their homemade croutons provide the extra crunch every successful Caesar salad needs.
Blue Moon, Rockville Centre
Blue Moon has been serving up Italian family favorites for over 50 years. Manager Edgar Nazarian says their Classic Caesar Salad for two is always a big seller and actually includes chopped anchovy fillets, quickly adding, “We don’t use too much.” He feels the trick to making a good Caesar salad is balancing the ingredients and then being careful with the dressing. “The Romaine leaves should be just coated with dressing. Don’t drench them or don’t use too little,” he said.
Caesar Salad Supreme
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 5 anchovy fillets, minced
- 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cups day-old bread, cubed
- 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
- Mince three cloves of garlic, and combine in a small bowl with mayonnaise, anchovies, two tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cut the remaining three cloves of garlic into quarters, and add to hot oil. Cook and stir until brown, and then remove garlic from pan. Add bread cubes to the hot oil. Cook, turning frequently, until lightly browned. Remove bread cubes from oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Place lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with dressing, remaining Parmesan cheese and seasoned bread cubes.
Recipe reprinted with permission of AllRecipes.com. Author: Karen Weir