No, the caesar salad was not named after Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. It was named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian who may have been named after Julius, so indirectly, who knows? What we do know is that the caesar salad was created circa 1924 by Mr. Cardini, a chef, restaurateur and hotelier in Tijuana, Mexico. His restaurant, Caesar’s, was established to lure Americans across the border to escape prohibition.
The legend claims the restaurant ran low on provisions because of the booming business on that 4th of July and Caesar created the salad from what remained. He whipped it together tableside to entertain his guests and that became the traditional presentation.
Where, Oh Where has our Caesar Salad Gone?
Once upon a time, servers would perform the ritual of making caesar salad tableside, mixing ingredients with great fanfare. Although the salad is still massively popular, unless you are dining at an old-school white tablecloth restaurant the dressing is a bottled concoction, the croutons from a commercial bakery and tableside service has disappeared.
The Demise of Tableside Service
With roots in the middle ages, when carving game was an art form demanded by Kings, to the rise of French Chefs practicing tableside, service was a public demonstration of skill. These skills were taught and delegated to the staff, which in the 60’s and 70’s still consisted of dedicated, career minded servers. Therein lies the answer. Restaurant service is no longer considered the career path it once was. Tenure is short and turnover is high. Costs have soared and most restaurants cannot afford to invest in the training required to artfully fulfill the duties.
Hail Caesar – King of Salads
There’s nothing like a genuine, made from scratch caesar salad. If you want one, you must do it yourself. Follow my instructions and if your friends are lucky they can enjoy tableside service from you!
- Yield: 4-6 1x
- 2 romaine hearts
- 1/2 cup olive oil – divided
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 6 anchovy filets packed in oil plus more for garnish
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1–1/2 TBL lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 dash worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups stale coarse white bread – torn into 1” pieces
- 4 TBL finely grated parmesan
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- shaved or grated parmesan for garnish
- Mince 6 anchovy filets drained of oil, garlic clove and a pinch of kosher salt
- Mash all the above into a paste and scrape into a mixing bowl
- Whisk in egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard and worcestershire
- Whisk in 6 TBL olive oil, adding it slowly until dressing is thick and glossy
- Whisk in the parmesan
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375
- Toss the torn bread with 2 TBL olive oil
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper
- Spread evenly on a baking pan
- Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes tossing after 7-8 minutes until golden brown
- Immerse romaine leaves in ice water for 10 minutes to wash and bring out color
- Drain and pat dry leaves, then hand tear them into large bite size pieces. Do not use the thick white parts of the leaf ribs
- Mix dressing, romaine and croutons, adding the dressing a little at a time until the leaves are coated but NOT drenched
- Divide into individual servings
- Shave or sprinkle a little fresh parmesan on each salad
- Garnish with whole anchovy filets (optional)
- Serve and offer fresh ground pepper with a peppermill
And just one more thing…
If you put the effort into making this dressing, then plopped some store bought croutons in it, shame on you!