I ran into a friend a couple of weeks ago who happily reported that my Caesar salad has become one of her staples. I used to make this salad every week for a community dinner while working at PlayHard GiveBack last year, and one night she asked me how I make my dressing. I shared that it is a fairly classic recipe, with anchovy, Dijon and raw egg yolk. She said she was surprised because she typically hates anchovy, and asked for the recipe.
People often shy away from Caesar salad with anchovy, as the dressing can be quite salty and overwhelming. I find the way avoid that is three-fold. First of all, use good quality, glass-jarred Italian anchovy fillets packed in olive oil. Regular tinned anchovies seem to be saltier and more "fishy", and these jarred ones are widely available and not too terribly expensive. Secondly, the quality of olive oil you use makes a big difference. Just like wine, one olive oil can taste completely different from another. Some just taste oily, and when you combine that with strong anchovies you end up with a rich oily fishy disaster. Definitely use extra-virgin olive oil, which along with being less refined, has much more flavor than regular olive oil and helps to mellow the "fishiness" of the anchovies.
Finally, which is also the reason why I call this a "somewhat classic" Caesar, is to use Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan. Pecorino is somewhat stronger and saltier in flavor, which works really nicely along with the flavorful anchovy to cut the rich egg yolk. Basically, instead of letting the flavor come purely from the anchovy, I use the extra-virgin olive oil and Pecorino cheese to create complexity that lacks the dreaded overwhelming fishy punch.
While my Caesar strays from the norm when it comes to choice of cheese, t's a typical recipe with regard to preparation. This salad comes together really quickly, and is great for a night when you don't have much time. It also scales really well, and you can make the dressing ahead, so serving it to a large crowd is not a problem. I've even made this salad for 30 high schoolers and it was a big success, both in terms of easy of quantity and preparation, and appreciation of flavor! I can happily say that like my friend's, many prejudices against raw anchovies have been overthrown by this Caesar!
SOMEWHAT CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- 6 anchovies fillets, finely chopped (I use Anchovy Fillets in Olive Oil by Agostino Recca)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
- sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 heads romaine lettuce
Combine the garlic, anchovies, mustard, egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing becomes thick and glossy. Stir in the Pecorino, then add salt and pepper to taste. If the dressing needs a little more acid, squeeze in a tad more lemon juice.
Chop the romaine into ribbons, and pour the dressing on top. Toss very thoroughly, as the dressing is thick! And garnish with a sprinkle of Pecorino and a few grinds of black pepper.