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  • Writer's pictureJohn B. Reyna

The Best Damn Caesar Salad You’ve Ever Had

Now, more than ever, it’s important to find fun new ways to eat your greens. Rarely do I (or John) get excited about a salad. Yet, this salad has managed to win over the heart of every person I’ve ever made it for since college when I first put it to use.

First, I must give credit to Javier at Walden’s Yacht club, who did a table-side Caesar and taught my father his recipe. And second, to my father who has adapted that recipe and shared it with me. I’ve continued to change it to my liking, continually evolving it as my tastes change. Recently, my brother transcribed my father's recipe while observing him make it, and I was shocked by how different my father's version looked. I definitely like more garlic, anchovy, vinegar, and mustard with perhaps less oil, lemon and Worcestershire.

Caesar salads are incredibly versatile and can be easily adjusted to match your desired salt, umami (anchovies!), acidity, and spice level. Follow this as more of a template.

Fun additions can be made such as adding an avocado to make it creamier or additional salad toppings to add texture. If serving as an entree, the dressing is plenty flavorful to complement the protein of your choice.

Caesar salad – 2-3 entree or 4-6 side salads

3 small or 2 large heads of romaine lettuce

2-3 garlic cloves (more or less depending on taste. Since it’s raw, it bites)

1-whole can of Anchovies (I began using 1 and now use the whole can. Since they vary in size like garlic, I try to do equal proportions of garlic and anchovy.)

Half a teaspoon coarse kosher salt (more if you cut back on anchovies)

Half a teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Tablespoon of Dijon mustard

Teaspoon of hot sauce (you can use whatever you have around the house, e.g., Tabasco or Tapatio)

Tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce

1 large egg (or two smaller)

1 lemon (I aim for 2 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup Shaved Parmesan (or more, you can also grate)

Small chunks of bread (don’t use the store-bought croutons, fresh baguette or loaf is preferable)

My father always crushed his garlic and anchovies with a fork, using the course salt and pepper to grind up the anchovies and garlic. To make this easier and give it a super smooth texture, I use a Vitamix (or small food processor up until recently when we burnt out the motor). However, this can all be done by hand using a strong fork if you prefer, giving it a more rustic texture.

Twist off chunks of Romaine into salad spinner, so each leaf is broken up into 3-5 pieces across the rib, giving each piece a little of its crunchiness. You want large leaves that will still fit into your mouth. Wash, dry and set aside.

Smash or blend Salt, pepper, anchovies, and garlic together to make a thick paste.

Mix in mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce until smooth.

Fill a teacup 2/3 with water and heat in microwave until hot (near boiling), which is about a minute to a minute and a half. Remove the water from and the microwave and drop the egg in the water for 2 minutes. Basically, you want to warm the egg yolk without cooking it. The white should have just started to cook when you separate the yolk out.

Add your warm egg yolk, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar to dressing and blend well.

Finally, add the olive oil to taste being aware the more you blend (especially if using a mechanical tool), the more you will emulsify the dressing, giving it a creamier texture. I like some, but take it slow.

Cut bread into small chunks and toast until the outside is crispy, but the inside is still soft. The bread acts as a dressing sponge and freshness is key.

Combine lettuce, dressing, and bread in large bowl. Add half the cheese. Serve out salad bowls and sprinkle the other half of the cheese on top.

Enjoy your hours of garlic and anchovy breath! Here is our final presentation, paired with two high acid whites: an Austrian Gruner Veltliner and a Sicilian Bianco. Gruner Veltliner's high acid makes it a classic pairing for any vinaigrette and it often has a white pepper note that plays well with greens. The Sicilian Bianco is made predominantly from the Catarratto Bianco Lucido grape varietal, which is high in acid but a bit more body than the Gruner.

And thanks pop, for passing this recipe onto your offspring as an heirloom and causing me to never order a Caesar salad at a restaurant, knowing it will always be a disappointment.



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