Caesar Salad

Recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites

Appetites: A Cookbook https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/140888383X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_gq6eEb9KDRWBR

Most of my friends now simply accept my slightly unhealthy obsession with the late, great Anthony Bourdain. When I ordered his cookbook Appetites, I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. Now it’s time to start putting the recipes to the test.

In spite of what I said about healthy eating in my last post and the fact that this is a salad, the amount of oil required for this dish would definitely not make it diet friendly.

Difficulty rating- 3/5- generally quite simple but a few judgement calls need to be made.

Necessary equipment-

Measuring jug(s)

Measuring cups

Measuring spoons

1x wide heavy bottomed sauté pan

1x chef’s knife

1x bread knife

2x tongs

Food processor

2x small bowls or mugs for separating eggs

1x lemon juicer or sieve for catching pips

1x large mixing bowl for croutons

1x salad bowl

For how many people? 4-8

Timings

Total time taken (according to the recipe)- not stated

Total time taken by me- 45 minutes

Hands-on time (according to the recipe)- not stated

Hands-on time taken by me (including ingredients prep)- 45 minutes

Cooking time (according to the recipe)- not stated

Cooking time taken by me- 15 minutes

The making

I started by heating a pan over a low-medium heat (4 on my induction hob.) I peeled and smashed 2 garlic cloves, measured out a cup of extra virgin olive oil and added the oil, smashed garlic and 4 anchovies to the pan to wait while the anchovies disintegrated, giving it an occasional stir.

I delegated the parmesan grating to my ever helpful/ long suffering (delete as appropriate) husband while I started to dice 6 slices of bread for croutons. I only diced a quarter of them before realising there would be enough croutons for at least 4 people already, so stopped there. I turned the heat up to medium-high (7 on my hob) and after it seemed to be hot enough I added the soon-to-be croutons and fried them in batches, until they were golden. I started too soon, before the oil had properly heated through, but by the last batch I was having to work very quickly to avoid them burning before I’d had time to turn all of them and then remove them from the pan. This stage definitely required my full attention. I then transferred the croutons to a plate, before putting them in a mixing bowl and tossing them with a quarter of the parmesan and some salt.

After I had dealt with the croutons, I added all the ingredients for the Caesar dressing, apart from the oil, into the largest bowl of my food processor and blitzed them for about a minute. I then drizzled the oil in slowly and ended up with quite a large quantity of gorgeously thick Caesar dressing.

I chopped up the romaine lettuce, washed the leaves and used tongs to toss the dressing through them. The recipe says ‘enough to coat the but not drown the leaves,’ I found that 2 heaped dessert spoons to 1 large head of romaine lettuce worked perfectly. The salad leaves we’re still slightly damp from being washed, but this helped emulsify the dressing- I don’t know if that was on purpose or not but it worked. I then tossed the remaining Parmesan through the leaves before dividing them between our plates. In this case, one Romaine lettuce’s worth between two of us, I chopped up another the next day to have the salad again for lunch. I then gave each plate a handful of croutons and more than the one boquerone mentioned in the recipe, because we both really like them.

Any cheats or changes?

I was a complete heathen and blatantly disregarded Bourdain’s plea not to serve chicken with the salad and pan fried a couple of chicken breasts which I chopped up and divided between our plates. We both enjoy chicken with a Caesar Salad so I make no apologies. If you want to do this, take into account the timings. I started frying them just after the dressing was ready, but the plating up time of the salad wasn’t long enough to cook them. Were I to do this again I’d start cooking them when I start making the dressing- or even at the beginning!

As mentioned above, I used more boquerones and less croutons than suggested.

Any extra tips?

Make sure the oil in the pan is hot enough before you fry the croutons. You can test this with one of the pieces of bread.

If, like me, you decide to make fewer croutons, use less oil as well.

Work very quickly when frying the croutons, not just to avoid burning them but because extra virgin olive oil has a fairly low smoke point and you want to avoid it reaching that and turning rancid.

In spite of the low smoke point of the oil, don’t be tempted to use a different type of oil when frying the croutons (unless you need to to save money- just use the best you can afford!) I was dubious about using extra virgin to fry, but the croutons really took on the flavours of the oil.

Anything you’d change for next time?

I would use less oil to fry the croutons in- as I reduced the amount of bread but not oil and probably used a smaller pan than the recipe intended. I also skipped draining the croutons on paper, as the recipe instructs. As a result of both of these things the croutons were quite greasy. That was my fault, not the fault of the recipe.

Serving Size- Complicated! The amount of lettuce stated serves 4 as a main course or 6-8 as a starter. As the recipe states it serves 4-8, that’s perfect. The amount of dressing produced, however, would have been enough for 8 main course servings or 12-16 starters. We did not use the full quantity of croutons I made between 4 main course servings, and I only made about a quarter of what was stated. So enough croutons for at least 10 main course sized portions.

The eating- Absolutely fantastic. Apart from the aforementioned issues with the croutons which were my own fault, I could not fault this. I genuinely think it might be the best Caesar Salad I’d ever had. The dressing was perfectly creamy and tangy, coating crisp lettuce and crunchy croutons with the occasional tang from the boquerones.

Any comments from other people?

My husband thought it was an excellent Caesar Salad and, in spite of what I have said about them, loved the croutons. He even helped himself to more and said he could have eaten a whole bowl of them!

Verdict-5/5. Room to play with quantities, but it serves at least the number of people stated and everything was exactly what it ought to be. In a world where I rail against restaurants listing this classic salad as a vegetarian option on their menus (How? If you have not used anchovies and parmesan it is NOT a Caesar Salad!) this recipe felt like the most comfortable duvet cover wrapped round you while watching an old episode of The West Wing.

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