Long live the Caesar Salad!

  February 18, 2024   Read time 2 min
Long live the Caesar Salad!
These days, most Caesar salads are made with an emulsified, premixed, intensely flavored creamy dressing, rather than with the loosely emulsified mix that forms when you attempt Julia's take on Caesar's original recipe. So, my question: Can we combine lessons from the authentic and the modern versions of the salad to come up with something even...

The most quotable source on the history and construction of an authentic Caesar salad comes from Julia Child's Kitchen published in 1975. In the book, she recounts a 1925 childhood expedition to Tijuana, the supposed birthplace of the salad, which had been created the year before by Caesar Cardini, a San Diego restaurateur who made the trip south of the border to avoid Prohibition-era laws. Yes, the United States' most famous addition to the salad canon actually comes from Mexico.

Julia recounts how "Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl.... I can see him break two eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them." The original, according to Julia, was made with the inner leaves of romaine lettuce—left whole, to be eaten with your fingers—tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, garlic, and eggs that have been boiled for exactly one minute. Bear in mind, this is a quote from a 62-year-old woman with a penchant for storytelling recounting a salad she ate when she was 12—I'd take its veracity with a grain of salt and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Caesar's daughter Rosa, whom Julia interviewed decades after the fact, claims that the salad was created when an unexpectedly busy Fourth of July weekend in 1924 ended with Caesar being forced to make do with only romaine lettuce, eggs, and the condiments he had on hand, tossing the salad tableside to add a bit of cheffy flair.

I do wonder what the restaurant was doing if it had more romaine than anything else. But if traumatic childhood experiences followed by cathartic turns to crime-fighting are the hallmarks of every superhero origin story, then unexpected late-night restaurant guests, oddly stocked pantries, and wildly innovative chef-restaurateurs are the hallmarks of a good food origin story. Both are probably equally mythical.


Caesar Salad Recipe Ingredients

My Caesar salad recipe starts with 4 basic components:

  • Romaine lettuce – Chop it into bite-sized pieces that’ll mingle with the other ingredients! You don’t want any big chunks of romaine here. Butterhead lettuce would be delicious in this recipe as well.
  • Cheese – I like to scatter shaved pecorino cheese over my Caesar salad, but a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese would add the same nutty, savory flavor.
  • Homemade croutons – For crunch! These are so yummy and easy to make – just toss bread cubes with olive oil and salt, spread them on a baking sheet, and toast them in a 350-degree oven until they’re golden brown.
  • Caesar dressing – Traditional Caesar salad dressing is made with raw egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies.

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