I imagine many of you are like me and reserve certain activities for special occasions. Like how I insist my friends toast their birthdays with pink bubbles or how I’m saving 3 inches of my forearm for an Uncle Jesse tattoo (so plotted ever since I discovered that uncles who aren’t related to you can be sexy, though Fuller House has delayed this plan for at least another five years; I’ve never been one for trends).
But mostly I save certain meals for the restaurant. Whether because I consider them too special to eat frequently or too difficult or time-consuming to prepare myself, some dishes never make it past the fantasy stage in my kitchen. We’re talking prime rib, croquembouches, and baskets of bread for the table. Until recently, Caesar salad topped that list. I know that, in its simplicity, this salad doesn’t immediately strike you as a dish best saved for Emeril, but in my limited imagination, I couldn’t picture a world where I worked egg yolk into a dressing, nor one in which I bought anchovies for anything other than a white elephant gift exchange (this actually happened, and I received a Jonas Brothers calendar in return. God bless you, 2009).
One of life’s simple pleasures is testing yourself, however, and I eventually realized that if that nerdbomber, the Pioneer Woman (she knows what she did) can make Caesar salad, then so can I. Hell, I’ve conquered my fear of heights and often enjoy the view from my lanai, a precarious 10 feet from the ground. Baby steps here, people. Moreover, my addiction to the garlicky, lemony, funky Caesar salad has grown exponentially with every creamy bite, so it’s best to stop leaving my fix to a restaurant that might not meet my rigorous high standard.
Let me assure you this dressing is astonishingly easy to make, all the more astonishing if you have a food processor. And, if you too are a child of the 80s, please know that anchovies aren’t as scary/disgusting as every pizza order in every film you saw growing up would have you believe. In fact, they’re kind of awesome, adding a briny depth of flavor to your dressing that would sorely be missed were it omitted.
Let’s break all the rules when we get together, dear reader, and start conquering our favorite restaurant dishes. I’m pretty sure soon we’ll all be saying, “Have mercy!” as we fight over who gets to lick the spoon.
- 4 anchovy filets
- 1 tablespoon mashed roasted garlic (see recipe here)
- 1 peeled fresh garlic clove
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 eggs yolks
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup shredded/grated Parmesan
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, combine the first 8 ingredients. Pulse until incorporated. If you don’t have a food processor, mince the garlic clove, and then mix the first 8 ingredients together well in a large bowl.
- Add the egg yolks and pulse a few times until combined. Alternately, if not using a food processor, whisk the eggs yolks in until combined.
- Turn the food processor on, and slowly add the extra virgin olive oil. Once added, slowly stream the vegetable oil into the food processor, while running, until the dressing is creamy and thick. This will take literal seconds, maybe 20 at most.
- If mixing by hand, first add the olive oil in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Then add the vegetable oil slowly until a creamy and thick dressing forms. This takes a minute or two, depending on the speed of your whisking.
- Transfer the dressing into a serving bowl, and then mix in the Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To finish: I recommend romaine hearts, shaved Parmesan, thick homemade croutons, topped with lemon zest and fresh ground pepper.