Caesar Salad from Tony Stallone

February 7, 2010 9:20:46 AM PST
Produce guru Tony Stallone from Peapod has been perfecting his Caesar Salad recipe for more than 25 years. He shares his thoughts on this famous salad below.Let's begin with an excerpt from Julia Child on Caesar Salad, "Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don't. They only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them?" I just love the imagery of crisp bright green romaine leaves with flowing creamy eggs and dressing for that seminal moment of Julia's first Caesar Salad!

This Sunday is a wonderful day to share with everyone my personal recipe for Caesar Salad. I have been making and tweaking this recipe for over 25 years and from family to friends it seems to be enjoyed by all. It can also be a great Valentine's Day dinner as well, as it can be the centerpiece for your Super Bowl Party. "In this corner representing the sentimental favorites, New Orleans Saints, is our Cajun Shrimp Caesar Salad and in this corner representing the Indianapolis Colts is the hard working Midwest Steak Caesar salad?" well you get my drift. I prefer it as a romantic Valentine's dinner for two, topped with roasted lobster tail, yum.

There is so much history to talk about regarding Caesar salad: Who first made it? Was it named after Julius Caesar? Did it really originate in Mexico or Chicago? Do you have to use Anchovies? Does the recipe call for coddled egg? By the way what is a coddled egg?

There are 2 conflicting histories on the origin of Caesar salad. One had Caesar Cardini referenced by Julia Child above as the creator (actually spelled Cesar, but he later changed it). First made on July 4th in his Tijuana restaurant in the early 1920's (this was during prohibition and stars like Clark Gable, Jean Harlowe, and W.C. Fields. would flock down to imbibe as well and indulge in the newest culinary craze). The legend has it, after a busy weekend he ran out of product and made this salad with the only ingredients left in the kitchen. There is a bottled Caesar dressing that is sold at Peapod and other grocery outlets still produced by his family Cardini Caesar Salad Dressing. The other history has Giacomo Junia a Chicago Chef in 1903 as the inventor naming it after the greatest Italian he could think of Julius Caesar. I am not sure which account is to be believed but it certainly has an American heritage and in 1953 was named the greatest recipe to come from America in the last 50 years by the Society of Epicures in Paris!

There is some debate whether the original recipe had anchovies, but mine has anchovies and a few other twists as well. I start with an old seasoned wooden bowl that I have used time and time again, rubbing the bowl with fresh garlic cloves, breaking up the garlic as I rub, letting the garlic's essential oils seep and coat the bowl. I remove the larger pieces of garlic then add anchovies, mashing it into a paste. The original recipe called just for a few drops of Worcestershire sauce instead of anchovies, which has anchovies as one of its ingredients, but I prefer a bolder taste with anchovies and Worcestershire as well. Now add some olive oil, mustard, fresh cracked pepper, Worcestershire and some balsamic vinegar (I like the sweetness the balsamic brings to the salad), stir it around bit and let it breathe. At this point I like to cover and let the dressing take on flavor, but we will keep going by adding the romaine leaves. Interestingly enough, the original recipe called for whole romaine leaves (some restaurants still do it this way), and patrons would pick up the leaves and eat them delicately sans fork and knife. At this point you want to toss until the romaine leaves begin to glisten.

Now comes the controversial part by breaking a coddled egg over the romaine. A coddled egg is an egg that has been cooked for one minute in boiling water. This does help prevent possible contamination from salmonella, but is not fool proof. So, if you are adverse to raw egg, you can substitute mayonnaise or plain yogurt. Keep mixing those glistening green leaves as you squeeze a fresh ½ of lemon, then add parmesan cheese and croutons and serve. You can also now top with a variety of toppings from Chicken to Steak to Shrimp. The one thing about Caesar salad is there appears to be no hard rules as the recipe continues to evolve and flourish. The one thing I do miss is those beautiful tableside presentations with all the fanfare only a chef who cares about his food and his customers can bring.

Tony's Caesar Salad

2 garlic cloves
1/3 C Olive Oil Extra Virgin
1 Can Anchovies in oil*
1/2 T Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 T Mustard Dijon
1/2 T Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 T Black Pepper freshly cracked
2 Heads Romaine Hearts
1 Egg coddled**
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
1/2 C Croutons
1/3 C Parmesan Cheese imported

In a large wooden bowl rub garlic cloves all over bowl breaking into smaller pieces, remove the larger pieces of garlic. Add anchovies (including oil from can) and use spoon or fork to mash and work into paste with garlic pieces. Add oil, mustard, vinegar, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to bowl and mix with anchovies until creamy. (I like to cover the bowl and let the dressing stand for an hour to increase the flavor). Add Romaine and toss until leaves glisten. Break egg onto romaine leaves. Squeeze fresh lemon over salad and toss until leaves are well coated. Add croutons and cheese, toss some more and serve.

*You can substitute 1T of anchovy paste for anchovies in a can.

**To coddle an egg place in boiling for one minute remove and immediately run under cold water.