One day I made a basic Caesar dressing recipe for the family.
After tossing the salad, about this much was left over:
Now friends, I ask you:
What was I supposed to do with this? In Jamaicanglish (think “Spanglish”), this is what my sister and I would sadly refer to as “the what left.” The whatleft is akin to the crumbs at the bottom of a bag you hand your friend once you’re done licking your fingers.
I don’t know who these recipe writers are cooking for. It’s as if they’ve never heard of leftovers. Or drop-ins. Or food-obsessed relatives who walk with their own tupperware.
“Hey, let me get some of that for my lunch tomorrow.”
In my family, we cook for the gathering itself, and the PackUps. (Another verb-turned-noun. Don’t worry, a glossary of terms is forthcoming.) That little dew drop in the ramekin wouldn’t take me halfway through my lunch hour the next day. Which is why I adapted this recipe to suit me and the people I love to share food with.
First, I must give credit where credit is due. I stole this Caesar dressing recipe from my husband’s cheat sheets. These cheat sheets live stuffed into a narrow white binder in our kitchen cabinet. This binder, or “vault,” holds all the original recipes from a series of masters cooking classes he took years ago in DC. Since then, he has continued to stuff it with random recipe printouts and clippings from the web.
One of the printouts is this fantastic traditional Caesar dressing from Ferran Adria, a Spanish-born chef considered one of the best in the world. The first time my husband made it for a cookout, the family went nuts. They now beg for it every time we plan a get together. Wanting to wow the masses with even bolder dishes, my husband has moved on and turned his oil-splattered binder pages over to me.
Because I am the Repetition Queen and will never turn down a good Caesar salad. I have since taken it over, made some tweaks, and – with the help of my husband’s crack math skills – scaled it up.
The adjustments were minor and, in at least one case, accidental. In place of counting out single anchovy fillets, my husband started using the ones from Roland where each anchovy is coiled around a giant caper. I decided that incorporating this little surprise, along with my splash of Sriracha sauce, greatly enhanced the original version and gave it that little extra umami “pop.” If you can only find plain anchovies in a can, use those, but consider dropping a few capers in for good measure.
So, you make the dressing. Afterwards, you’re staring at the mason jar wondering if maybe you bit off more than you can chew. Will you be forced to eat the same Caesar salad three times a day for the next two weeks?
No. One of two things will happen:
The problem will take care of itself within 48 hours. This is true if you (a) come from a large foodie family whose meal-prep game is off the charts, (b) get hit with a last minute potluck, (c) have housemates, or (d) have friends, neighbors and associates who drop by “just because.” When they do, you will remember this dressing in the fridge and be glad to have something quick and zesty to serve.
You will figure out that Caesar dressing is good for more than just salads, and flex your new game all week long. Use it in place of mayonnaise on wraps, sandwiches or burgers. Marinade with it. Slather some on fish before baking it. Toss and roast vegetables in it. Jazz up coleslaw with it. Use it as a dip for raw veggies.
Even when it comes to salads, mix it up. Instead of romaine, try tossing it with raw kale. It also makes a great side dip for herbed and roasted red potatoes.
By the way, if you were hoping for a low-cal vegan-slash-Paleo-slash-nondairy Caesar dressing, I hope it’s clear by now that I can’t help you. At least not in this post. We’ll have plenty of other opportunities to cut out fat and calories, but I insist on a traditional Caesar in my house. It is one of the best culinary developments since fire.
As you’ll note, I didn’t even remember to take the picture until it was half gone. That’s how good it was. Enjoy!
Caesar Dressing (adapted from Ferran Adria's original recipe)
Yield 3 cups
This version was adapted from Spanish chef Ferran Adria's recipe. His includes instructions for homemade croutons, which I've omitted here because (a) I'm too lazy to make them from scratch each time and (b) croutons are not really my thing. If you have the time and desire, you can follow his original version. The variation I present here quadruples the original recipe plus adds capers and a touch of Sriracha sauce. Again, if you're not a fan of either or simply want less volume, stick with the original. It is delicious either way.
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
- (2) 2-ounce cans of anchovy fillets with capers, drained
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of good quality sunflower or safflower oil
- 1/2 cup Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, plus extra for serving
- 3/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- salt, to taste (I like Himalayan pink sea salt)
- pepper, to taste
- romaine lettuce, tough outer-leaves removed, rinsed and cut cross-wise into 1 1/2-inch strips (quantity will depend on number of guests)
- Using the mini-bowl insert of a standard food processor, combine the garlic and anchovies and pulse to completely mince the ingredients.
- Add the egg yolks and pulse to combine, then drizzle in the sherry vinegar with the machine running to fully incorporate.
- With the machine still running, add the oil in a thin, slow stream to create a thick, mayonnaise-like dressing.
- Add the 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and Sriracha sauce to the dressing and pulse a few more times to incorporate.
- Season to taste with a few dashes of salt and pepper. Don't overdo it, it won't need much.
- Toss with the lettuce until well-coated and serve. Sprinkle any remaining grated cheese on each individual plate.
- Initially I thought I could bypass using my food processor (as I hate cleaning it) and rely on my high-powered blender for this. It didn't work. The final consistency was way off. I also thought I could bypass using the little mini-bowl insert that my food processor came with and just process everything in the one giant bowl, but that didn't work either, because the main blade was too large to finely mince the garlic and anchovies. So if you don't have a food processor, I can't really offer you an alternative solution, other than to borrow one from a friend or family member when you're ready to make the dressing.
- Don't substitute any other vinegar for the sherry vinegar, and choose the best quality you can find/afford. My husband swears by the brand Columela, which is aged 30 years. Whole Foods carries it, or you can order it on Amazon for $16.99 a bottle.
- Do not exceed 3/4 teaspoons of Sriracha sauce. I fell into the trap of thinking "if a little Sriracha is good, even more must be better!" Wrong. That works with burritos; salads not so much. Even a full teaspoon was too far. Trust me on this.
- Consider grating your own cheese fresh instead of buying the pre-packaged stuff, which is loaded with additives and stabilizers like potato starch, powdered cellulose (did you know that's wood pulp?), and natamycin. One shortcut I use is to buy a big hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Costco, break off small pieces and process it in small batches in my blender at high speed for about 40 seconds, or until completely grated. I then store it in a plastic container in the fridge to use as needed. (If you can't find Parmigiano-Reggiano, or need a more budget-friendly alternative, use parmesan.)
- The salad pairs well with grilled shrimp or salmon. A few cherry tomatoes thrown in never hurt anybody, either.