The Romans had nothing to do with this summer salad favorite, which was named for (and by) Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur to the stars. As Cardini liked to tell it, the Caesar salad was born on July 4, 1924. That day, an unexpectedly large number of customers began arriving at his restaurant, Caesar's Place, in Tijuana, Mexico. Because he was running low on supplies, Cardini decided to make up the difference with a bit of showmanship. He brought to the table all of the ingredients for what later became known as Caesar salad and assembled the dish right on the spot, with dramatic flourishes. Apparently the ploy worked, because soon customers began traveling to Caesar's Place just to order the famous salad.
What we offer here is Julia Child's recording of Cardini's Caesar salad recipe, with one important change: In the original, Cardini cracked two coddled (warmed but not cooked) eggs over the lettuce. For modern safety reasons, we cook the eggs over very low heat. We've also included 4 tasty twists on the base salad so you can mix things up!
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- In a small saucepan of boiling water, blanch the garlic for 1 minute. Peel, smash with the side of a knife, and place in a small jar. Pour in the olive oil and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 days and up to 5 days. Strain out the garlic and discard.
- Preheat the oven to 275°F. Toss the bread cubes with 3 tablespoons of the garlic oil and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until golden brown.
- Separate the lettuce into leaves and wash well. Pat dry. Cut into 2-inch lengths (16 to 18 cups). Wrap the lettuce in a towel and refrigerate until you’re ready to put the salad together.
- In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice. Cook over very low heat, whisking constantly (so the egg doesn’t curdle), until the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk vigorously off the heat until the mixture cools slightly.
- Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the garlic oil and toss twice to evenly coat. Add 3 more tablespoons garlic oil. Sprinkle with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and toss once.
- Add the egg mixture and toss twice. Add the Parmesan and toss once. Add the croutons and give the salad a final toss.
Tip: To make an authentic Caesar salad, you start by making your own garlic-infused olive oil. It’s easy to do, but the process takes at least 2 days.
Add ½ teaspoon grated orange zest to the garlic oil. Use 3 tablespoons each lemon juice and orange juice when you cook the egg mixture. Use only 6 drops Worcestershire. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon with the salt and pepper. Increase the Parmesan to 1 cup.
Use pumpernickel bread for the croutons. Whisk 2 teaspoons honey mustard into the cooked eggs off the heat. Omit the Worcestershire. Add ¼ cup minced dill.
Omit one of the heads of romaine. Use a total of 8 cups sliced radicchio and baby arugula leaves instead. Increase the Parmesan to 1 cup.
Reduce the oil to 6 tablespoons and the garlic to 2 large cloves. Blanch the garlic, then mince, and add to the oil (let sit while you prep everything else). Use store-bought Caesar-seasoned croutons and reduce to 2 cups. Omit the eggs. Reduce the lemon juice to ¼ cup and whisk it into ⅓ cup mayonnaise along with the salt and pepper. To assemble the salad, toss the lettuce with the garlic oil. Then add the Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise mixture and toss again. Finish with the Parmesan and croutons.