Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lidia's Caesar Salad

Pick the youngest, crunchiest Romaine lettuce you can find. Keep them crisp, before and after cleaning in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Even if you pick, young, crispy lettuce, you should use only the pale green and yellow, inner leaves for this salad. But don’t throw out the outer leaves. Shred them and stir them into soups or into a panful of sauteed fresh peas.

2 cups firm-textured white bread cubes (½ x ½-inch)
3 young, firm heads Romaine lettuce, or one 18-ounce package hearts of romaine
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T red wine vinegar, plus more for dressing the salad
4 garlic cloves
4 anchovy filets
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 T Dijon mustard
1 hard boiled egg yolk (see page 000)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a block of Parmigiano Reggiano for shaving

Preparing the croutons:
Heat the oven to 350° F. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake, tossing them once or twice so they cook evenly, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove and cool. (The croutons may be prepared up to a day in advance. If necessary, recrisp them in a 350 F oven for a few minutes.)

Another little touch that looks nice on a plate is to set one or two whole Romaine leaves on the plate and pile the cut leaves over it. Shaving Parmigiano-Reggiano over the finished salad looks nice and tastes nice, too.

Traditionally, Caesar Salad was made with a barely cooked egg. For safety reasons, use a hard-boiled egg.

Preparing the greens:
If using whole heads of romaine lettuce, remove the darker outer leaves to expose the pale green center. Reserve the outer leaves for another use, if you like. Cut the out the core and separate the hearts of romaine into individual leaves. Wash the leaves in a sink of cool water and drain them well, preferably in a salad spinner. Place the leaves in a large bowl, cover them loosely with damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator up to 8 hours.

Preparing the dressing:
Combine 2 tablespoons vinegar, the lemon juice, garlic and anchovies in a blender or work bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth, adding some of the ⅓ cup olive oil if there isn’t enough liquid to move the mixture around the blender jar. Add the mustard, hard-boiled egg yolk, salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and remaining olive oil if any. Blend until is smooth and creamy. Taste the dressing: If it’s a little too tangy, pour in a splash or two of olive oil and blend until it’s incorporated.

The dressing shouldn’t be too dense; it should be just thick enough to coat each leaf lightly. The cheese that is added at the end will thicken it a little. Oil and vinegar stirred in at the end is a little touch of mine.

Putting it all together:
Stack the leaves in a large, preferably wooden serving bowl.

Pour the dressing over the salad, add a splash of vinegar and a healthy splash of olive oil and toss until all the leaves are coated with dressing. Toss in the croutons and ground black pepper to taste.

Lastly, so it doesn’t clump, sprinkle the grated cheese over the salad, tossing as you add. Serve on chilled plates and, with a vegetable peeler, shave some of the block of Pamigiano-Reggiano over each serving.

Serves 6


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