Do a little research into the background of the Caesar salad and you'll find that it is named not for some illustrious Roman emperor, but for Caesar Cardini, a Mexican chef working in Tijuana in the 1920s, who dramatically served it up table-side. (At least that's how the story goes.)
Fast forward to this century and you have what is probably the most popular restaurant salad in America, with plenty of variations around the theme of romaine lettuce, garlic, Parmesan, and croutons.
What follows is my friend Suzanne's recipe. I love Suzanne's family-sized Caesar salad, and have been a frequent guest at her house when it has been served (lucky!).
Homemade Caesar Salad Croutons
In this recipe we are making croutons from scratch, from baguette slices that have been brushed with olive oil, toasted, and then roughly chopped. You toast the baguette slices while the garlic soaks in olive oil in the serving bowl, which a great way to infuse the oil with garlic.
Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
Classic Caesar Salad dressing is made with olive oil, garlic, raw eggs, and anchovies. The eggs give the dressing creaminess, and the anchovies? A salty, savory deliciousness. If you don't have access to anchovies, just add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to the dressing.
Safety Tips for Using Raw Eggs in Salad Dressing
A note about using raw eggs in salad dressing. Because of the risk of salmonella, it's a good idea to avoid them if you are serving this to the very young, very old, pregnant, or immune compromised.
Best Substitutes for Raw Eggs
If you're worried about using raw eggs, you can substitute a few tablespoons of mayonnaise instead, since store-bought mayo is made with pasteurized eggs. You can also use pasteurized raw eggs, if you can find them in your store.
To avoid eggs altogether, you can simply make a garlicky vinaigrette. It won't be as creamy, but you won't sacrifice flavor either.
Caesar Salad with No Anchovies
Don't be afraid of using anchovies -- they give Caesar salad its trademark taste. But if you don't have anchovies or anchovy paste available, add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to the dressing. That also makes the salad vegetarian friendly!
Like Caesar Salad? Check Out These Other Salad Recipes!
- 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 baguette, preferably a day old, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (plus more to taste)
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, or 1-2 anchovies, minced
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 4-6 small heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed, patted dry, wilted outer leaves discarded
Combine olive oil and garlic:
In a very large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil and garlic. Let sit for at least half an hour.
Make the toasted croutons:
While the garlic is sitting, make the croutons. Spread the baguette slices out on a baking sheet. (You may need to do in batches.)
Brush or spray with olive oil (or melted butter). If you want garlicky croutons, dip pastry brush in the garlic infused oil you have sitting in Step 1.
Broil for a couple of minutes until the tops are lightly browned. (Note: do not walk away, these can easily go from browned to burnt.) Remove and let cool.
The steps up until this point can be made ahead.
Make the dressing:
Add minced anchovies (or anchovy paste, if using) and eggs to the oil-garlic mixture. Whisk until creamy. Add salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Whisk in half of the Parmesan cheese. Taste, add more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. The lemon should give an edge to the dressing, but not overwhelm it.
Tear off chunks of romaine lettuce:
Using your hands, tear off chunks of lettuce from the heads of romaine lettuce (do not use a knife to cut). Add to the dressing and toss until coated. Add the rest of the Parmesan cheese, and toss.
Combine and serve:
Coarsely chop the toasted bread into croutons and add to the salad. Brush in any crumbs from chopping the bread, too. Toss and serve immediately.