Caesar Salad

January 28, 2014
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I grew up eating boring salads, horrible and underdressed. The old-school salads I learned to make at culinary school, like Waldorf and Niçoise and the mayo-and-curry-spiked Coronation Chicken, were better, for sure. But the Caesar was the first salad I ever really loved. Soon after I graduated, I got a job at a restaurant called Kensington Place. Rowley Leigh, the chef, would mound plain Gem lettuce on a plate and serve it with Caesar dressing on the side. Oh, that dressing! Not only was the flavor a tangy, umami-packed thrill, but it was also very “clean,” as we chefs some­times say. That is, you could taste the individual components—first to register was the saltiness, not necessarily the fishiness, of the anchovies, then came the Parm and garlic, and finally, the tang of the vinegar.

Because of my early bland salad experiences, I like mine extra punchy, even, in this case, what some people might consider a little overdressed. Romaine is quite watery and it needs the dressing to cut through that flatness. This is a salad I like to make and eat with my hands. I rub the dressing onto each leaf, each one like a little canoe. I’m especially fond of the freshly-baked-bread taste of the croutons, which makes you want to seek out another, and then another, and the refreshing quality you get from serving the salad chilled. Eat it quickly, before it warms up. —A Girl and Her Pig

What You'll Need
  • 7 whole salt-packed anchovies, rinsed, soaked, and filleted
  • 1 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sunflower, peanut, or grapeseed oil
  • 1 ounce chunk of Parmesan, very finely grated
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, chilled
  • Croutons, use your favorite method
  • A chunk of Parmesan for grating
  • Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • A few anchovy fillets for garnish
  1. Put the anchovy fillets and garlic in a small food processor and pulse to a rough paste. Add the mustard and vinegar, crack the egg, and blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. With the processor on, gradually drizzle in the oil in a steady stream. Finally, add the Parmesan and blend until it's all well combined. Scrape the dressing into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, then pop it into the fridge to chill and thicken up. (It'll keep for up to 3 days).
  2. Trim the root ends of the Romaine heads and discard the large, floppy outer leaves. Separate the remaining leaves and put them in a very large mixing bowl. Refrigerate the leaves until they are nice and cold.
  3. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the dressing. I like to use my fingers to gently rub this dressing onto both sides of the leaves, so you get a little bit everywhere. Gradually add more dressing, just until it's all nicely coated. Be nimble and fast like a salad ninja, because you don't want your hands to warm up the lettuce and dressing.
  4. Add the croutons and toss a few times so they get a touch of the dressing. Then add a little more dressing if you need to. (I usually end up using about half the dressing and saving the rest in the fridge for another day.)
  5. Layer the leaves of the salad, so they face this way and that and so they're not all in a clump, on a platter and scatter the croutons here and there. Garnish with the anchovies. Grate some Parmesan on top, taste, and add a little salt, if you'd like. Eat it immediately -- preferably with your hands.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Burnt Ribmeat
    Burnt Ribmeat
  • Meagan Nicole
    Meagan Nicole
  • olive
  • Galapagos

8 Reviews

Burnt R. April 27, 2020
I make this all the time! Sometimes, I'll add a bit of chiles in abobo sauce for some added smokey/spicy kick!
Meagan N. May 13, 2016
Great recipe! I used a combo of capers and sun-dried black olives in place of the anchovies - turned out amaaazing.
Moundcitymaker May 25, 2015
This dressing is amazing! I haven't even had the salad yet, but I had to pop in and say how completely delicious this dressing is and how well this recipe works. And thanks to the person who suggested subbing Thai fish sauce for the anchovies. I don't have a problem with anchovies but didn't have any and couldn't get to the store. The fish worked perfectly. Thanks for the tip!
CailinH February 11, 2014
This is SO good. I used some fancy stone ground mustard for an extra umph.
ATG117 February 3, 2014
Any sub for the anchovies? I know, I know. There are just some things, like the look of anchovies, that I can't get over. It's a shortcoming. What can I say.
Sarah February 3, 2014
miso for salt and umami?
Galapagos February 5, 2014
Try Thai fish sauce. Similar taste; different look. Haven't done it but it's what I would do.
olive February 2, 2014
Ha! I just made a Caesar last night- totally agree with April- I like mine a tad overdressed…I mean it is all about the dressing here and how the croutons and lettuce soak it up. I will definitely try her recipe for my next one !!