While I was at the market the other day, I found some gorgeous ribeye steaks on sale. Never one to pass up a good bargain, especially on meat, I picked up a few for that night's dinner. When I got home and unwrapped them, there were three steaks in the package, instead of the two I thought I had asked for. I don't know if it was my mistake or the clerk's, but there it was right in front of me - an extra big, beautiful slab of beef. Now, even though Mr. SGCC is a bona fide caveman, even he couldn't have eaten two of those big boys in one sitting. I can barely finish one whole one myself. Yet, one steak really wasn't enough for the two of us to make another meal out of. So, I needed to come up with way to use that steak and stretch it out a bit. I ended up simply pan-searing it, thinly slicing it and serving it on top of a big Caesar salad made with my favorite homemade dressing. It was a very good call!
The origins of the Caesar salad has been a topic for debate since the late 1920's, when it first began appearing on restaurant menus in North America. Contrary to what one might think, this wildly popular salad is not named after the famed emperor of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar. The most widely accepted theory is that the dish was actually named for Italian-born chef and restaurateur, Caesar (Cesare) Cardini.
A typical Caesar salad is comprised of romaine lettuce and croutons tossed with a dressing made with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg yolks, and Worcestershire sauce. It was originally prepared tableside and often still is. One interesting fact about the Caesar salad is that, even though most current day versions contain anchovies in some form, the original recipe did not. It is said that the slight anchovy flavor in the dressing came from the Worcestershire sauce, which has some anchovy in it. I, however, have a soft spot for anchovies, so my version of the dressing has them in spades! And, in over twenty years of serving it, I've never had any complaints!
This Caesar salad dressing recipe was given to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends. Susan and I have been wreaking havoc together since the seventh grade, which is more years ago than I care to admit. We've seen each other through love and heartbreak, lost jobs and career changes, sickness and health and birth and death. We've celebrated our crowning achievements and commiserated over our deepest disappointments. One of the many things I love about Susan is her brutal honesty. She always tells it like it is with no sugar-coating or bull$h!t. So, when she told me that this was the best Caesar salad dressing ever, I believed her. And, she was right.
This dressing is not for the faint of heart. It's brazenly loaded with garlic and anchovies, and it does contain egg yolks. It also has a little something extra in the form of Tabasco sauce, which gives it a nice kick. If you're concerned about using raw eggs, you can certainly swap them out for mayonnaise. It will still be good, but not quite the same.
Aside from the dressing, the salad itself has no specific recipe. Just add some romaine lettuce into the bowl with whatever else you like, toss with the dressing and throw some croutons on top. In my haste to get this dish on the table, I forgot to add the croutons before I took my photographs - but, I promise, they were there.
Using a protein in this salad gives it a lot more heft and substance. You can use chicken or any kind of seafood in this as well. The pan-seared ribeye is one of my favorite additions, because the flavor of the steak really stands up to the dressing, instead of being masked by it. All I did was salt and pepper the steak, sear it in a hot skillet, slice it up and put it on top of my salad.
I won't try to tell you that this is a light meal. It is not. Caesar salads are not diet food. But, it is a zesty and lusty dish full of bold, bright flavors. If you like Caesar salads in general, you will love this one. Have I ever steered you wrong?
I'm submitting my photo at the top of this post of The Perfect Bite to the June, 2009 edition of Click!, the monthly food photography event. The theme for the event is Stacks.
Susan's Caesar Salad Dressing (Printable Recipe)
2 egg yolks
6-9 cloves garlic (whole) according to your taste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4-6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 can anchovies in olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 cups good quality, freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano
Whiz all ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in food processor or blender until smooth. Slowly drizzle oil in while blending on low speed until emulsified. Stir in cheese.
You might also like these other meat lovers' recipes from SGCC: