This recipe borrows from one of my favourite home cook supporters: Bonnie Stern. Her book “Essentials of Home Cooking” was one of the very first cookbooks that I ever owned, and despite having tinkered with a variety of Caesar dressings over the years, this is the one that I continue coming back to as a staple. It has the added bonus of calling for mayonnaise instead of raw egg, which is a big selling point for those of you who get a bit scrupulous over the idea of eating uncooked egg yolks. Please note that if you ARE one of these people, this is the only recipe of the 3 that does not use raw egg in the dressing. I personally have no issue with consuming raw egg, particularly if you’re buying good-quality eggs. There’s always a lot of speculation around raw egg consumption, but a recurring theme does seem to be that good-quality eggs (meaning from happy, healthy, and above all, CLEAN hens) are quite unlikely to cause you any problems, especially if you are meticulous in your refrigeration practices. But if you’re not into it, that’s cool too. You can rest assured that this rendition loses nothing of its creamy potency from the substitution of mayo (yay!) in place of raw egg.
Caesar Salad with Grilled Lemon and Smoked Bacon
Adapted liberally from Bonnie Stern (Essentials of Home Cooking)
½ cup full-fat mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped (pressed if hand-whisking)
1 ½ tsp anchovy paste (optional but highly recommended…honestly you don’t taste the anchovies, just the salty excellence that they imbue)
Juice from 1 small lemon (about 2 tbsp)
1 ½ tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup neutral tasting oil (e.g. canola – olive oil is not recommended as the taste will be overpowering)
1 small loaf of rustic or country-style bread, cut into fat cubes (about 1 ½ inches)
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Salad and Assembly:
2 large hearts of Romaine (or 3 smaller), cut into hearty pieces
8 rashers of thick-cut bacon, sliced into ½ -inch lardons (preferably double-smoked)
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 lemons, cut in half (for grilling – optional)
Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth then, with motor still running, drizzle in the oil little by little. Continue until oil is completely emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve.
Next, make the croutons. If baking (not frying) preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the oregano, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. The bread should be well-slicked with oil. Fry the bread cubes in an oil-coated pan set over medium heat, tossing frequently until golden on all sides OR scatter the bread on a lined baking sheet, ensuring that they form only a single layer. Bake the bread cubes for 15-20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to ensure even browning.
Place the bacon in a cold pan and set over medium heat. Once the bacon begins to sizzle, stir constantly until crispy. A gluttonous person who thought this through first might have the brains to toss the unbaked croutons in some bacon fat before baking or frying them. Remove the bacon from the pan once cooked and let drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
If desired, lightly brush oil on the cut halves of the lemons. Grill over high heat just until grill marks appear.
To serve the salad, toss the Romaine with a light drizzle of dressing. As with most of my salads, I suggest under-dressing the salad and serving with extra dressing at the table. Toss the bacon and croutons gently into the salad. Squeeze grilled lemons over salad. Serve topped with a light sprinkle of parmesan.