Four days after the Ides of March probably isn’t the best time to eat Caesar salad.
Well, okay, Julius Caesar didn’t survive the Ides of March, but he also didn’t invent the Caesar salad–they say it was actually a dude named Caesar Cardini. But I like to think our Roman friend caught the soothsaying bug when he said “Let me have men about me that are fat,” because a salad like this definitely won’t give you “a lean and hungry look” like the backstabbing Cassius had.
Unless you look hungry ’cause you want more salty, gooey, delicious salad, of course.
Anyway, ever since we opened a tin of anchovies for salmoriglio during that fiasco of a date night, we’ve been thinking about how real, made-from-scratch Caesar dressing pretty much always includes these deliciously salty little fishies…and how we also had some leftover sourdough baguette from the party sandwiches that would make perfect croutons…and how some of Micah’s home-cured guanciale (hog jowl bacon) would be so good if we crisped it up and crumbled it on top….
(Damn. Now I’m kind of craving some more salad.)
This hankering actually set in sometime last week, but we had to wait for Thursday’s Athens Locally Grown pick-up to get our romaine lettuce, and then I kept forgetting that I needed to make some more mustard (which needs to sit in the fridge for a day before it’s ready to use). So, even though we’d been gazing longingly at the recipe with our sad puppy-dog eyes for almost a week, it was last night before we actually had everything we needed to craft the perfect Caesar salad:
We had a few mishaps along the way, like almost burning the croutons (you can see in the photo that they’re a tad on the brown side)…not to mention a few issues getting the mayonnaise base for the dressing to come together correctly (apparently, a common problem).
Side note: You might be thinking to yourself…but I thought Tanya hated mayonnaise? And I do. Passionately. With the heat of a thousand suns. But for whatever reason, I love Caesar salad. And you have to admit, once you get all the other flavors into that dressing, it really doesn’t taste like mayo at all.
Anyway, in the end, this salad tasted even more delicious than it looks, and we will definitely make it again.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 anchovies, minced (the recipe called for 2, but we were feeling adventurous)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used my own homemade–recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (but I bet apple cider vinegar would work well, too)
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Mix together the garlic, anchovies, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar in a small bowl.
- In a larger bowl, put your egg yolk and a tiny bit of olive oil. Whisk quickly (or use an electric handheld or stand mixer). As the egg and oil mixture starts to thicken, continue to slowly drizzle in the olive oil while you keep whisking. Add too much at once, and this stuff will never fluff up. We learned this the hard way.
- Once the olive oil is completely incorporated, blend in the garlic and anchovy mixture, then the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.
- The recipe says this makes 2 cups, but for us it only ended up being a little more than one. Not sure why, but that just means we’ll need to make more soon!
Now that you’ve got some of this amazing dressing, here’s how we made the rest of the salad.
What’s in it (the whole shebang):
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
- 1/4 cup of that delicious Caesar dressing we just made
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 big slices of bacon, cooked crispy, then crumbled
- croutons (super easy! – cube some bread / toss with melted butter, salt, pepper, and minced garlic / bake on a sheet pan at 400°F until golden brown and crunchy)
- Toss your lettuce and dressing together in a big bowl.
- Split the dressed salad between two big plates for a meal (topped with protein of your choice, if you like!) or four small ones (as a side or starter).
- Divide the cheese and crumbled bacon between your salads. Evenly, unless you’re looking for a fight.
- Add croutons.
And yes, you read correctly that the mustard I used in our Caesar dressing was homemade. I had no idea mustard was so easy to make until Micah and I won a copy of Vanessa Barrington’s awesome book from a drawing over at Punk Domestics:
The cool thing about this book is that it includes recipes for all sorts of stuff I’d never thought to make from scratch: ketchup, tortillas, sauerkraut, kimchi, and the aforementioned mustard–and then it gives you different recipes for using all your delicious homemade fixins.
We haven’t attempted the ketchup yet. Micah did make the kimchi, subbing collard greens for the cabbage (pretty good). But the corn tortillas are yummy, the carrot and cabbage sauerkraut will rock your socks off, and the mustard…well, this is my fourth or fifth batch, if that tells you anything.
What’s in it:
- 1/2 cup whole mustard seeds (mix of brown and yellow)
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) port wine
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Mix everything together in a glass or plastic bowl.
- Cover and store overnight in the refrigerator. (This lets your mustard seeds soften.)
- The next day, put your mustard in a blender or food processor and start blending. Your liquid-y, grainy mixture will magically thicken and smooth out to a lovely, spreadable consistency.
- Taste it. It’ll be pretty spicy! If it’s too spicy, you can blend in a little bit of water and/or a little more honey.
DIY Delicious is one of my very favorite cookbooks, hands-down. And not just because it taught me how to make mustard like this: