Loyal reader, galloping Egullet gourmand, favorite foodie friend and curious connoisseur commenter David Ross writes:
Why is it so hard for restaurants to make a good Caesar salad?
Seriously Seeking Caesar
Dear Serious Caesar Seeker,
It is so hard because they don’t want to take the time to make it right. Like a perfect Caprese salad, everything must be done just right, and in the right order, to create the perfect balance of textures and flavors.
The biggest mistake restaurants make (besides not making it table-side…or at least made-to-order) is thinking it calls for a creamy dressing. (Even table-side makers make this mistake by taking shortcuts and mixing the dressing in the bottom of the bowl.)
A correct Caesar, like all ethereal creations, becomes greater than the sum of its parts by diligently building those correct parts, in the correct order. The lettuce must be properly torn, properly crisp, and not too cold. The leaves are then coated with olive oil and egg (by giving these three ingredients a good tossing) before drizzling on the lemon juice, Worcestershire and plenty of grated cheese. (A serious amount of good, ground black pepper is also a must.)
Good croutons are also indispensable — made by taking 1 0r 2-day-old bread, trimmed to 1-2 inches in length (yes, they must be BIG croutons, not the hard, teeth-chipping stale chunks you see in most versions), rubbed with garlic, crisping them in olive oil (or in an oven), before brushing the tops with anchovy paste.
The use of mustard is a no-no, and only utilized by restaurants because it assists in developing a pre-made, creamy dressing with some tang to it. In truth, the tang should come from the lemon-Worcestershire juice, and the creaminess should be allowed to develop naturally as the leaves get coated from tossing the ingredients in the proper order.
Alex Cardini (the inventor of the Caesar) thought the overuse of garlic was the biggest mistake his imitators made (besides rubbing the croutons with a garlic clove, all he would do was rub the inside of the wooden bowl with a clove before the lettuce was added). Yours truly thinks the lack of lemony tartness is what most versions lack, along with a good coating of good Parmesan cheese.
At age 86 (the same as Marcella Ruth Schroader Curtas -The Official Mother Of ELV), the noble Caesar has been so bastardized that it has now crossed the martini-line, and a classic, correct version is as hard to find as a love scene in a Jodie Foster movie. Even good chefs in good restaurants (and you know who you are!) think anything made with romaine lettuce and some kind of creamy garlicky dressing can be called a Caesar salad — no matter how it is constructed and what abominations (cherry tomatoes to catfish) are strewn about it.
Bottom line: People will pay for any kind of crappy creamy romaine salad, and nobody but ELV really cares what has happened to one of the world’s iconic recipes.
Here is some history and the correct recipe. Read it and weep:
Sadly yours in seeking a sincere Caesar,
PS: Morels in the Palazzo probably makes the best version in town — although the young lady below pre-mixed the dressing in the bowl and it was loaded with mustard (quelle horreur!). Still, for a restaurant Caesar, in Vegas, it’s about as good as you’re gonna get.
MORELS FRENCH STEAKHOUSE
In the Palazzo Hotel and Casino
3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109