Long live Ceasar!
December 15, 2009 4:33 PM   Subscribe

My salad wants to be dressed to impress. Save my Ceasar salads' soul, Mefites. Ceasar salad is so oOold school. Shake up my Ceasar salad dressing with some truly twisted, exotic, unexpected tastes and ingredients while remaining somewhat true to the modern interpretation consisting of egg, parmesan, olive oil, mayo, mustard, lemon, anchovy, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Thats 'modern' Ceasar to me. I know the 'original' was a far cry from this more or less standard list of ingredients in the current modern interpretation. Be wild... be creative! Lets rock Caesars world.

I need a Ceasar dressing to impress my girl. Help me out. What unexpected twists can I add to Ceasar dressing to make my seriously foodie girl friend fall in love? (I mean with my salad, of course). With a little luck the sheer brilliance of your input will save my Ceasar and rock her foodie world.
posted by Muirwylde to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Wasabi! Try the grilled wasabi Caesar salad.
posted by Paragon at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2009

I always add ripe olives to my CS.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 4:44 PM on December 15, 2009

It's Caesar. Not Ceasar ;)

I love to play around with the croutons - a great crouton makes a world of difference in a good Caesar salad! Have you ever taken day old Italian bread and drizzled it with really good olive oil and then charred it on a grill or in a panini maker? Do try it. It's heaven. Afterwards, break the bread into little chunks so that the croutons aren't uniform - it gives a nice rustic look to the salad. Also, upgrade your Parmesan to a nice Romano - Locatelli or something like that. You're rubbing a chunk of garlic on the bowl before you start, right?

Have you ever tried adding white raisins? Oh yeah. They're amazing with the anchovies...the super sweet with the super salty.
posted by iconomy at 4:45 PM on December 15, 2009

Don't know about for Caesar in particular, but my favorite unusual flavor for salad dressing is miso. Salty, savory, generally yummy.
posted by madmethods at 4:51 PM on December 15, 2009

Try grilling the romaine on a hot smoky charcoal grill. That doesn't help you in the dressing department but it does add another dimension of flavor to play with.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:57 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Every foodie I know hates hates hates HATES HATES it when people tinker with the Caesar salad recipe and call the result a "Caesar salad."

If someone tried to impress me by putting stuff in a salad and calling it a "Caesar salad" I would be the opposite of impressed. Similarly, a drink made with rum and chocolate liqueur and Cherry Heering and cream is not a "martini" of any variety. Foodies are all about crisp nomenclature (and correct spelling, for that matter).

But if you want to make her an awesome salad inspired by the classic Caesar salad, go for it. Grilled tuna is great in a Caesar-inspired salad, as is pancetta. Olives could be wonderful. Some grilled balsamic chicken might be fun. Or some duck, with duck gribenes instead of croutons.

This confused me a bit:

the modern interpretation consisting of egg, parmesan, olive oil, mayo, mustard, lemon, anchovy, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce.

How is that "the modern interpretation"? Except that the classic Caesar salad has raw egg and no mayonnaise--the mayonnaise (presumably commercial pasteurized mayo) is supposed to be a substitution for the raw egg for people (or Boards of Health) who are squicked by that, and including them both looks like an error, not a variation--that's an absolutely classic recipe that you'd find in any 1940s cookbook, mas o menos the Tabasco.

Now, Caesar Cardini, the salad's inventor, didn't think it should have anchovies or mustard in it, but by the 1940s anchovies were a standard part of the recipe, so I would hardly describe that as a "modern interpretation."
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh oh oh seconding the grilled romaine suggested by kuujjuarapik. That stuff is divine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on December 15, 2009

The best caesar salad I've ever had's recipe lies in the hands of someone I no longer know. I've never tried to recreate it but from memory it goes something like this:

Dressing consists of a coddled egg, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, maybe fresh grated parm, maybe a spot of mustard, whisked (no anchovies and I believe no worcestershire but I can't remember).

The salad bowl is rubbed with a cut clove of garlic.

The salad itself consists of romaine, 1/2"ish pieces of bacon, and a protein like chicken or shrimp if you like.

Croutons likely made from baguette pieces rubbed with olive oil (and maybe cut garlic clove too) and toasted or pan cooked.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:00 PM on December 15, 2009

The bacon thing: is it actually the norm in England for everything billed as "Caesar salad" to have bacon in it? That's not the US practice, though I think bacon is generally a good thing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:13 PM on December 15, 2009

Okay so maybe considering substituting components of the original:

anchovies: smoked salmon or smoked trout
Add capers
If you added tarragon to the dressing and some poached salmon on top, that might be interesting

But if you want to experiment, try looking at it with this map...You could try approaching this from a variety of different cultural viewpoints, you've got basically the following components:
a fat (olive oil)
an acid (lemon)
a cheese (parmesan)
something salty (anchovies)

So if you could swap olive oil for canola oil, lemon for lime, parmesan cheese for a mexican cheese, and anchovies for chiplotes in adobo sauce, and you have a Mexican themed caesar. So if you look at that as blueprint, you could kind of look at it through a lens of the world's cuisines and come up with something new.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:42 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing Sidhedevil and birdie birdington - like a martini or any other classic, a Caesar is a standard not because it affords exotics combinations, but because - properly done - it humbly allows its contents to shine.

So, use a classic recipe, but use some local Romaine, the freshest egg, the best olive oil, organic lemon, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, some ridiculously good parmesan, some minced anchovies, and - yes - a bit of Worcestershire, and you're set.

And, yeah, make your own croutons.
posted by asuprenant at 5:54 PM on December 15, 2009

I'm one of those annoying anti-tinkering foodies that Sidhedevil mentioned, so I suggest that instead of a Caesar salad, you go back to another classic, an underappreciated one: Green Goddess Dressing. (Some history here, though I don't recommend the recipe they cite.) A mostly-lettuce, not-too-complicated salad tossed with that stuff is a revelation.

Back on the Caesar front, one of my favorite restaurants serves a Caesar with what they call a "one-eyed Susan": an egg-in-the-hole made from a slice of bread cut into a ring, with an egg topped with capers fried in the middle. It's a brilliant idea: crouton and egg at the same time,
posted by neroli at 6:14 PM on December 15, 2009

...respecting the original idea of the dish but playing with presentation just a bit.

[Hit Post too soon.]
posted by neroli at 6:34 PM on December 15, 2009

Honestly, if you want to impress your foodie girlfriend I think making a classic Caesar very, very well is going to impress her more than any gimmick addition. (Raisins? Please!) A Caesar is a tricky salad to do well: you're balancing sharp flavours (garlic, mustard) against acidic (lemon, vinegar) and spicy (pepper, anchovy, chili, Worcestershire). Then you're rounding it out with oil and egg and adding some depth with parmesan. It's a very complex melange of flavours and doing it right is a challenge.

There's three places you can play with a Caesar. One is the lettuce; well trimmed Romaine makes a nice difference. (The grilled lettuce idea is interesting, but I'd be wary). The second is the texture and distribution of the cheese. I prefer a fine shred well tossed, but it can be done different ways to different effects. I've enjoyed Caesar's with a parmesan crouton, a fried birds nest of parmesan cooled and served whole to be shattered by the diner.

The third variable on a Caesar is how you treat the croutons. You can go nuts here, there's no standard. A really good neutral bread, perfectly crisped up in a little garlic flavoured butter with a dusting of cayenne pepper? That makes a superior salad.
posted by Nelson at 7:58 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sometimes on Taco Tuesday I like to do a Cesar salad: lime juice instead of lemon juice, a little chili oil, and instead of croutons I use my pizza cutter to slice tortillas into ribbons, toss them with oil and garlic, and bake them to a crisp. And instead of parmesan, a dusting of cotija.

It's nice to throw in a few ribbons of carrot and radish to evoke the marinated/pickled carrots and radishes you'll find at taquerias.
posted by padraigin at 10:06 PM on December 15, 2009

I also thought Caeser salad was supposed to have bacon in it. Worth trying our 'classic' interpretation of it if you haven't :)
posted by jacalata at 10:57 PM on December 15, 2009

Even though it's a cliche, truffle oil (which usually doesn't contain truffles, but truffle aroma, different story) splashed on tings gives them a little more depth. I would try, sparingly to truffle your olive oil up a little.
posted by lalochezia at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2009

nthing the 'for God's sake, don't fuck with it and continue calling it a Caesar' thing.

However. You can retain the classic ingredients, fiddle a bit, and still call it a Caesar. You could for example sprinkle your parm in a nice hot (nonstick) pan and make a cracker of it.

But I think others had it right: get the best ingredients, and teach yourself to make it in the classic tableside manner; wooden bowl, mash in the garlic, then build the dressing and toss the leaves.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2009

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