How to Make World Class Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar salad - Sorry I didn't have any croutons for the photo.
Classic Caesar salad - Sorry I didn't have any croutons for the photo.

When I dine out, I usually order a Caesar salad to start. I find this to be a barometer of the meal to come. If the Caesar salad is good, which is unfortunately a rare occurrence, I know that the rest of the meal will be good. Many restaurants don't put in the effort to get this right, and that tells me I should probably order a burger instead of the duck l'orange.

Making a great Caesar salad at home is not much more difficult than opening a jar of mass-produced salad dressing, but is infinitely better. There are many recipes for Caesar salad all claiming to be the original recipe. The truth is that the original recipe used far less ingredients than most people think. This recipe is very close to the original.

Caesar salad is great as a first course, a side dish, or as a main course when topped with grilled shrimp or chicken. I love it with a cold, crisp Pinot Grigio or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients

  • 1 Clove garlic, mashed to a paste (see below)
  • 1 Anchovy fillet or a squeeze of anchovy paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Mayonnaise (or 1 egg yolk)
  • 1/3 cup light-tasting olive oil (or more to taste)
  • 10 ounces of Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 cup of grated Romano cheese (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup croutons (see below)

Notes:

Classically, Caesar dressing calls for an egg yoke. I recommend substituting 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise in order to avoid the risk of salmonella that can be associated with raw eggs. You will not notice any difference in the taste or texture.

Use light-tasting or extra light-tasting olive oil. A full-flavored olive oil will be too strong and will overpower the dressing.

Don't be afraid of using anchovies. They won't make the dressing taste fishy, but will enhance the flavor


Smash the garlic with the side of your knife. The peel will come off easily.
Smash the garlic with the side of your knife. The peel will come off easily.
Chop the garlic as finely as you can.
Chop the garlic as finely as you can.
Sprinkle kosher salt or coarse sea salt over the minced garlic.
Sprinkle kosher salt or coarse sea salt over the minced garlic.
Repeatedly draw edge of your knife over the garlic, while pressing down with your fingers, to mash the garlic into a paste.
Repeatedly draw edge of your knife over the garlic, while pressing down with your fingers, to mash the garlic into a paste.
Garlic paste.
Garlic paste.
Mash the anchovy and garlic together using a fork.
Mash the anchovy and garlic together using a fork.
Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while whisking to emulsify.
Drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while whisking to emulsify.

Mash the Garlic

Place a clove of garlic on the cutting board and cover it with the side of your knife. Hit the knife with the heel of your hand, being careful to avoid the sharp edge. The peel will come off very easily. Chop the garlic as small as you can get it. Push it together with your knife and sprinkle some kosher or sea salt over it. The salt will act as an abrasive. Drag the side of your knife across the garlic, pressing down as you go. Repeat until the garlic becomes a paste.

Scoop up the garlic paste with your knife and place it into a wooden salad bowl.

Make the Dressing

Add the anchovy to the salad bowl. Using a fork, mash the anchovy and garlic together until it becomes a paste. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and pepper. Whisk together with a balloon whip. Add the olive oil a little at a time while continuing to whisk. Whisk in half of the Romano cheese. Add the Romaine lettuce and toss to coat. Top with croutons and sprinkle with the remaining Romano cheese. Serve immediately.

This can be a great main course by topping it with grilled shrimp:


Croutons

I'm not a purist when it comes to croutons. Store bought ones are fine, will save time, and will save you from heating up your oven. (This is especially beneficial in the Summer).

That being said, these homemade croutons are fabulous with soups and salads.

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450f. Combine the butter and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss until coated. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss until coated. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

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Comments 4 comments

Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

Yes, the home-made croutons are a key, they add that tiny little crunch among the rest that makes this salad one of the most popular. Thanks for sharing the recipe, you get a vote up and useful from me.


Bill Yovino profile image

Bill Yovino 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the vote and comments. I'll have to make it again and re-photograph. The lettuce was borderline-wilted when I took that picture.


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

As one who struggles to make a good Caesar Salad, I appreciated this. Great article.


Bill Yovino profile image

Bill Yovino 3 years ago Author

Thanks, Lions44. This is so easy that I struggle to understand why so many restaurants use bottled dressing.

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