I bust out many different variations of this salad dressing. Sometimes, I chop the garlic and anchovy. Or I melt them together over medium heat. But this particular version is the most foolproof because it's the easiest to emulsify. The trick is to make a smooth paste out of the garlic and anchovy. This takes time. This takes arm strength. Don't give up. Additionally, the shallots should be chopped finely.
I do two parts oil to one part vinegar. This makes some people pucker. This makes my mouth explode with umami joy. Dip a leaf of lettuce in. Taste. Set aside for a few minutes. Taste again. There is no perfect balance here. Just the one that makes you happy. Adjust accordingly. —Phyllis Grant
4, with leftover dressing
garlic cloves, peeled
oil-packed anchovy fillets
large shallots, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
white wine vinegar (Champagne or red wine are good options as well)
sherry wine vinegar
Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is my favorite; don't use one that's grainy)
extra-virgin olive oil (don't use one that's bitter or herbaceous)
to 25 romaine leaves (I prefer the crispy leaves from the heart)
avocados, halved, de-pitted, peeled, and sliced the long way
With a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of the garlic cloves and anchovy fillets. Bash. Stir. Wipe down the sides. Mush. Bash. Stir. Have an energetic child take over for a bit. Don't give up until it's smooth.
With a rubber spatula, remove paste from the pestle. Slide in the shallots. Stir in the vinegars. If you have time, let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Add mustard. Slowly whisk in 3/4 of the olive oil (this should take about 30 seconds). Taste. You will probably need to add more olive oil. Use right away or store in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Sometimes, I assemble the salad and then bring it to the table. Other times, I let people assemble their own. If the romaine is not very crisp, chop it up into 1 inch slices.
But if the leaves are petite and crispy, here's my ideal salad: Place the whole leaves (trough-side up) in a wide salad bowl or serving platter. Drizzle each interior with dressing. Gently toss to coat leaves. To avoid guacamole in your salad, carefully layer the sliced avocados on top of the dressed greens. Spoon over some salt, parsley, and additional dressing. Eat right away.
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.