Friday, February 25, 2011

Caesar Salad - The Way to my Dad's Heart

I've said it before, I grew up eating a salad with almost every dinner my mother made.  Usually, it was some sort of leafy green, add tomatoes, radishes and some green onion to a red wine vinaigrette, and that was our tasty, every day salad.  I started introducing a Caesar Salad a bit ago and my father loves it.  Whenever I'm home, he begs me to make it.  My mother could have prepared an entire meal, salad included and he will still ask me to make it for him.  A conversation goes like this:

Dad: "Oh please sweet, just a little Caesar Salad?"
Me: "Dad.  No."

So this post is devoted to my dad, it's not his birthday, or Father's Day but there are certain things that just remind me of him some days, and Caesar Salad is often one of them.  My father is truly unique.  He let me sit in his lap and drive up the driveway when I was seven (totally legal), jump from the top of the refrigerator into his arms as a toddler, has trouble pronouncing words like "yeast" and "onion" with his Polish accent, and lastly, he is convinced that he is a "cool dad."  After all the years of laughing, driving, jumping, joking, and laughing again, he is my father that I love, the only father that I know and could ever be so lucky to have.

Dad - I love you and thank you for keeping things, well, interesting.

Anyway, back to reality, I made this for dinner a few nights ago.  I know some of you may be wary about using anchovy paste but trust me, you don't taste it, it just has a rich and complex saltiness that perfects the dressing.

Caesar Salad:

Serves 4 people
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/2 inch strips
Parmesan cheese, freshly graded

1 cup of day old, cubed bread - I used a baguette or some sort of dry bread
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder

In a saute pan, add the oil to medium high heat.  Add the bread and let toast in the oil, take the heat down to medium.  Season with salt and pepper and turn once the bread has a nice golden brown color.  Toast on the other side for a few more minutes and then put into a seperate bowl, sprinkle with a few dashes of garlic powder (if you do this in the hot pan, the garlic powder will burn and taste like well, burnt garlic and metal - super delicious).  Let the croutons cool.

Salad Dressing:
2 egg yolks
1/2 to 1 whole lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp anchovy paste - or a good squeeze (comes in a tube at the grocery store)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
dash or two of Worcestershire
1 garlic clove, finely minced
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

In a sauce pan, heat an inch or two of water to a simmer.  Combine everything but the olive oil into a metal bowl and place on top of the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Whisk rapidly for a minute or two until the egg yolk mixture thickens up a bit and lightens slightly, making sure that the eggs don't curdle or get chunky.  Take off the heat immediately and wipe off the hot water from below the metal bowl (or just place on a kitchen towel).  Whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you desire.  Thin custardy consistency is what I like, but to each his own.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Place the dressing at the bottom of your salad bowl and put the lettuce on top.  Sprinkle the croutons on top along with the Parmesan cheese.  Toss at the very last minute before serving/eating.  Enjoy Daddy!

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