The Flat Possum Gazette  

Test Kitchen

Courtesy of the Road-Kill Press

Ceasar Salad

Ceasar Salad

Your mother bought an old cookbook by Julia Child recently.  Good old Julia wrote it sometime before 1975, more than twenty four years ago. At one point in the book she remembers going to Tijuana, Mexico, south of San Diego, with her parents. This was in the mid-1920's during the depression, and Americans flocked to the place to swill down legal booze, gamble at the casino and tend to their other needs that have been supplied by Tijuana for generations..

Julia and her folks ate at a restaurant in Tijuana named Caesar's, owned by Caesar Cardini, and Julia remembers Caesar himself rolling the cart up to the table, tossing the romaine in a great wooden bowl and breaking two eggs over the lettuce, and add garlic flavored croutons, oil and Parmesan cheese.  Man! What a memory this old girl had.

Julia says that Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad in 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico. She also says that the romaine leaves were not cut or broken up, but were left whole and you were supposed to pick up the leaf by the stem end and eat it with your fingers. And I suppose you let the dressing and raw egg run down the inside of your wrist into your shirt sleeve.  Sounds like messy Tijuana to me.

Here's a modern version of Julia's Caesar Salad:  (for 4-6 people)

2 large heads romaine lettuce
2 large cloves garlic and a garlic press
3/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Cups plain unseasoned croutons, toasted
1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 Cup (or more) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Peppercorns in a grinder
Worcestershire sauce

Wash and dry the romaine, refrigerate in moist paper towels until ready to use.

For the croutons, puree the garlic into a bowl and mash to a paste with a pestle or spoon, adding 1/4 teas. salt and dribbling in 3-4 Tbls. olive oil. Strain into a frying pan, heat to just warm, add the croutons, toss for a minute and turn into a serving bowl.

Shortly before serving, squeeze the lemon into a pitcher, removing seeds.

Boil the eggs exactly 1 minute (I would boil them long enough to kill off the salmonella that is probably lurking inside those eggshells), and grate the cheese into another bowl.

Have your large salad plates chilled (salad forks too, if you really want to do it up right). Pretend you are Caesar himself using rather slow and dramatic gestures, and pour about 4 Tbls. oil over the romaine and give them 2 rolling tosses.   Don't, whatever you do, bruise the lettuce.

Sprinkle in a couple pinches of kosher salt, exactly 8 grinds pepper (remember, you are Caesar, creating!), 2 more spoonfulls of oil and give the stuff another, rolling like a wave, toss. 

Pour on the lemon juice, 6 drops Worcestershire and break in the well-coddled eggs. 

Two more of those sweeping, dramatic tosses, sprinkle on the cheese. Toss once (a quickie).

Sprinkle on the croutons and perform 2 final, graceful, tosses.

You can serve it to your guests like the Mexicans, and eat the uncut leaves with your fingers, but I think that folks would prefer using a knife and fork and cut up the leaves before transporting them to one's mouth. Now, the croutons, of course you can eat them with both hands, and be sure and lick the oil off your fingers before putting them in your pockets. Imagine the stares you would get, even in Mexico.  Viva Julia!



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