If you knew how many test Caesar salads I had to eat to arrive at this final recipe here before you, then you'd think I was obsessed. (And you'd be right.) I adore a good, crunchy, anchovy-redolent Caesar salad. Say what you will about anchovies, but for me they're the absolute best part of the dish.
My Caesar salad dressing has significantly more anchovies than most (six for a single serving); not only that, I make good use of the olive oil they've been stored in: a tablespoon anoints the sourdough croutons, and another goes into the dressing itself along with the fillets. What this means is that the salad can feel meaty and substantial enough to be lunch or dinner on its own, especially the way I make it: a whole romaine heart, scattered on a large plate with my extra-gutsy Caesar dressing. A real knife-and-fork salad.
For even more savory depth and a little lip-smacking nuttiness, I've added one of my favorite Korean pantry items of all time: roasted seaweed snack, or gim. This ingredient, along with a couple teaspoons of sesame oil, adds an umami-rich back note that complements the anchovies in a new, beautiful way.
You'll notice I've also foregone the lemon juice for rice vinegar (because that's what I always have on hand) and the Dijon mustard for the fat combination of anchovies, roasted seaweed, Parmesan, and egg yolk (because their bulk is more than enough to help the dressing blend into a creamy emulsion).
You can find roasted seaweed snack at most grocery stores these days, especially at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and H Mart. But if you live somewhere more remote, then order them here: https://www.amazon.com... —Eric Kim
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash the lettuce leaves, spin or pat dry, then transfer to the refrigerator to keep cold and crisp until ready to dress.
Make the croutons: In a sheet pan or small baking dish, toss sourdough bread pieces with 1 tablespoon of the anchovy oil. Season with salt and pepper if desired (I prefer these croutons without seasoning because, for me, their bread-y sweetness balances the salty, punchy dressing). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crispy and lightly browned at the edges.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a small food processor, blitz the remaining tablespoon of anchovy oil, anchovies, garlic, egg yolk, rice vinegar, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan cheese, and roasted seaweed snack until smooth and emulsified, scraping the sides in between pulses. It will be very thick; don't worry. Season lightly with salt (the anchovies and Parm are already pretty salty) and heavily with pepper (because it rules).
Transfer dressing into a large bowl. Take the cold romaine out of the fridge and toss in the bowl (I like to use my hands here to massage the dressing into each leave's nook and cranny). Add the croutons and toss gently one last time, tasting for seasoning. More salt? More pepper? Now's the time to adjust.
Transfer salad to a plate, piling the leaves high and scattering the croutons. Grate over a final dusting of Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. All salads wilt, but this one especially, so eat immediately.
Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his solo dining column, Table for One, runs Friday mornings. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.