Julia Child’s Caesar Salad
Jul 3, 2010
Summer is the time to see all the roses in full bloom. And since I live near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, on Saturday mornings, I run through the park to the Rose Garden and literally stop to smell the roses. This past weekend, I went around and read the names of the roses too: Caribbean Red, White Knight, Queen Pink, and a beautiful white rose surprisingly named Julia Child.
Ever since the film Julie and Julia came out last year, it seems Julia Child is popping up everywhere. I’m glad her wonderful recipes and independent spirit are still alive, but I was surprised to find a rose named after her! So in honor of Julia Child and light summer fare, I want to share with you a recipe of hers that is my favorite: the Caesar Salad.
Caesar Salad is a classic, but I love how Julia makes the dressing without mayonnaise. Instead, she simply combines a “one-minute” cooked egg, olive oil and lemon juice as the dressing, then tosses in freshly baked garlic croutons to add the perfect crunch. She tops it all off with freshly grated parmigiano. A simple, perfect recipe from a master.
As she would say, “Bon Appétit!”
||to 24 crisp, narrow leaves from the hearts of 2 heads of romaine lettuce, or a package of romaine hearts (about 1 pound)
||baguette, cut into cubes
||large clove garlic, peeled
||cup or more excellent olive oil
||freshly ground black pepper
||whole lemon, halved and seeded
||drops Worcestershire sauce
||tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano only
You will probably need 2 large heads of romaine for 3 people — or use a commercially prepared package of “romaine hearts,” if they appear fresh and fine. From a large head remove the outside leaves until you get down to the cone where the leaves are 4 to 7 inches in length — you’ll want 6 to 8 of these leaves per serving. Separate the leaves and wash them carefully to keep them whole, roll them loosely in clean towels, and keep refrigerated until serving time. (Save the remains for other salads — fortunately, romaine keeps reasonably well under refrigeration.
To flavor the croutons, crush the garlic clove with the flat of a chef’s knife, sprinkle on ¼ teaspoon of salt, and mince well. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil on the garlic and mash again with the knife, rubbing and pressing to make a soft purée.
Scrape the purée into the frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and warm over low-medium heat. Add the croutons and toss for a minute or two to infuse them with the garlic oil, then remove from the heat. (For a milder garlic flavor, you can strain the purée though a small sieve into a pan before adding the extra croutons. Discard the bits of garlic.)
To coddle the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer. Pierce the large end of the egg with a pushpin to prevent cracking, then simmer for exactly 1 minute.
Mixing and serving the Caesar:
Dress the salad just before serving. Have ready all the dressing ingredients and a salad fork and spoon for tossing.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the romaine leaves and toss to coat, lifting the leaves from the bottom and turning them towards you, so they tumble over like a wave. Sprinkle them with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, toss once or twice, then add the lemon juice and several drops of the Worcestershire, and toss again. Taste for seasoning, and add more, if needed.
Crack the egg and drop it right on the romaine leaves, then toss to break it up and coat the leaves. Sprinkle on the cheese, toss briefly, then add the croutons (and the garlicky bits in the pan, if you wish) and toss for the last time, just to mix them into the salad.
Arrange 6 or more leaves in a single layer on individual plates, scatter the croutons all around, and serve.