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Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Recipe adapted from The Science of Good Cooking.  [Recipe serves 4 to 6].

Spring is here, thus salad season has arrived.  The Caesar salad is probably one of the most recognizable salads, but one that is often misinterpreted.  It's all about simplicity, good ingredients, and proper seasoning.  You have greens tossed in a homemade dressing, croutons, and additional Parmesan if desired—that's typically it.  It seems like more and more places are going overboard with additional toppings, which in my opinion, disqualifies it from being called a Caesar salad.

I stayed true to the dressing recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but simplified the process of making the croutons.  They called for adding the garlic in two steps, soaking the bread in water to create a unique texture, and pan frying the croutons.  But if your heat is too high or the size of your sauté pan is too small, this is a recipe for burnt, soggy croutons.  So I took a more common approach by forgetting about the water and just baking them for an even crispness and color.


INGREDIENTS:

5 cups ciabatta cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoons garlic paste
2 large egg yolks
6 anchovy fillets (~1 tablespoon anchovy paste), rinsed, patted dry, and minced
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces (~3/4 cups) Parmesan cheese, grated fine
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 to 18 ounces romaine lettuce hearts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, rinsed, and dried

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line a sheet tray with aluminum foil.

For the croutons, whisk together the garlic paste, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the cubed bread and toss until evenly coated.  Transfer to the sheet pan and bake until the outside is crisp and the inside still has a little bit of chew, roughly 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and toss to combine.  Bake for an additional 2 minutes, or until the cheese gets a little color.  Remove and cool.

For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic paste, egg yolks, anchovy paste, and Worcestershire in a large bowl.  While whisking, slowly add both of the oils, starting with a very slow stream to create an emulsion.  Whisk in most of the Parmesan (saving the rest for garnish), and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss with the romaine, and plate.  [Side note:  If you're worried about over-dressing the salad, start by tossing all of your greens with half of the dressing, and then adding more if needed].  Garnish with additional Parmesan and the croutons.

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