Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat May 25, 2013

Caesar Salad: The Most Unconquerable Of History's Salads

Without a doubt this is history’s most unconquerable of all Caesars!

Go anywhere in the U.S. and, from truck stops to swank spots, this is the one salad you are most likely to encounter.

Credit domesticdaddy.net

Okay..  Well, maybe outside of a "small tossed". But was it that? A catch all if there ever was one. You don’t even know what dressing it will adorn it much less the principal cast members within!

I’ll grant you… There are worthy contenders that could have been king: The Cobb Salad, the Greek Salad… the Waldorf salad.. HEY! What about the Chefs Salad!?!

But no. 

None can defeat Caesar.

You can go to a Caribbean fast food chicken restaurant in Miami, a fine hotel restaurant in London or an Oriental diner in Oklahoma… and Caesar would be rendered unto you! 

And the salad did not start ‘begot’ in old Italia. Not by a Mexican jumping bean long shot! 

It was created by an immigrant in Tijuana, Mexico named Caesar Cardini, from the Lago Maggiore region of Italy. And fittingly...the creation allegedly took place on the Fourth of July weekend of 1924. Mr. Cardini had a series of restaurants there in Tijuana, one of which was named "Caesar's Palace". (Gamble on this tale if you like.)  Though Signor Cardini did have a restaurant up in San Diego, he probably liked the one in Tijuana much better… at least for cash flow purposes… There was no Prohibition in Tijuana in 1924! 

How anchovies were added to the original salad is the source of much discussion and some serious argument! Some say Caesar’s brother Alessandro might have had the idea. “Et tu Alessandro??” 

The salad became very popular with Hollywood stars who visited Tijuana. Julia Child recalls having one when she visited there from Pasadena with her family when she was very young in the 1920’s. The Caesar salad was even once voted by no less than the... International Society of Epicures in Paris as the "Greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in fifty years." I’m sure they were amused with themselves over there in Paris that day. 

My first book, "A Feast of Sunlight", written while I was still at Louie’s Backyard in Key West, contains a recipe for a Caesar, so I admit… I LOVE THEM TOO. 

The testing of a recipe really gets you inside the structure and balance between ingredients and that is the beauty of a properly made Caesar: balance.

When you are working with things as robust as anchovies, mustard, garlic and even the beautifully powerful… Parmesan it's important that there is the proper proportioning going on or it won't be the conquest you'd hoped to achieve! And… one of the most important ingredients of all … one that might be glossed over.. is the fresh lemon juice. And it must be fresh! It lightens up the dressing in magical ways. 

And more proof that cuisine is in a state of near constant make over is the very lettuce used. It is likely of Greek origin. Romaine is the name. You’d be considered logical if you thought it emanated from Rome… but no. Again. The ‘merchant of history’ brings change more than anything! 

Romaine came originally from the Greek Island of Cos. 

So there you go. And one thing is for sure. You won’t be getting a Greek Salad with it!

This is making me hungry! I’m going to create a BLT sandwich today and instead of lettuce and mayo 

I’m chopping up a Caesar and sticking it on bread with the bacon and tomatoes. Who knows? It might be famous one day!

CAESAR DRESSING 
Norman Van Aken, © 2011

Yield: Approx. 3.5 Cups 

8 Egg Yolks, extra large
3 1/2 Tablespoons Creole Mustard 
1 ½ Tablespoons Black Pepper, toasted and freshly cracked
3 ½ Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1 ¼ Cups Canola Oil 
1/2 Cup Sherry Wine Vinegar 
¼ Cup Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed and strained
1 Scotch Bonnet, stem and seeds removed, minced 
1 ½  Tablespoons freshly minced Garlic 
12 Anchovy Fillets, rinsed well and finely chopped 
1 ¼ Cups grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese 

Begin by whisking the egg yolks, mustard, and black pepper in the electric mixer until pale. (Allow at least four to five minutes). *Note: Be sure the mixing bowl is absolutely dry and clean before beginning.

Now add the two oils in a slow steady stream using a ladle. 

Add the vinegar as the emulsion becomes overly thick (about 1/3 of the way through).  Use the lemon juice (and then a drop or so of water as needed) in the same way. 

Add the remaining ingredients while whisking and then chill until needed.

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