Hail Caesar!

My very first job was for a five-star restaurant group with its head office located in Bistro Burgos in Makati. 

Bistro Burgos was the first bistro in the Philippines by the way.  Everyday, the restaurant manager, Mang Johnny, would supervise the making of the day’s Caesar Salad Dressing just before the restaurant opened for lunch.  It was either the Maitre’d or the Captain Waiter who would have the honor of whipping up this very popular dressing.

I loved watching these guys mashing the anchovy and garlic in the big, wooden bowl on a stand.   I loved watching the dressing come together as the oil was slowly drizzled in.  Since my boss was out of the country for the few months I worked for him, I had time to spend in the restaurant listening to Mang Johnny with his many stories of those days when he was a restaurant manager, captain waiter and maitre’d at the finest establishments in Manila.  The man must’ve been in his late 70’s when I first met him, so he had a lot of stories to tell.  Ohhh, yes….interesting stories of politicians, and entertainers, international personalities, wives, mistresses and egos – big and small.

Anyway, I thought I didn’t have the wrists to make a success of this dressing.  All I did for years was shake dressing ingredients in a bottle and never attempted a Caesar’s salad dressing.

I tried it the other day though and the results surprised me.  It was delicious and better than any bottled dressing I’ve ever bought, gourmet or not.  I’ll never be intimidated by any salad dressing after I’ve made a success of my first Caesar’s salad dressing.

Try it one time, and don’t feel intimidated.  Just prepare all ingredients beforehand and have it ready before you start whipping.

Caesar’s Salad:

Croutons: 

6 slices Italian or French bread, cut into 1/2 in. bite-sized cubes

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 325F.  Put the bread in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Flip the bowl several times to evenly coat the bread with the oil.  Lay on a cookie sheet in one layer.

Bake, stirring occasionally until the bread is roasted brown about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Salad:

1 large egg

1 or 2 large garlic cloves, very finely minced

4 anchovy fillets, drained

1 or 2 tbsps. lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/4 lbs.), washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces

Place the egg in a saucepan and cover with cold water and add a dash of salt.  Bring the water to a boil over medium heat.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes.  Drain and cool under running water.  Peel.

NOTE:  In the old days, before salmonela poisoning became so common, a raw egg yolk was used for this dressing.

In a large bowl, combine the garlic and anchovies.  Mash them together into a paste with a wooden spoon.  With a wire whisk, beat in the egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  Gradually beat in the olive oil.  Add cheese and mix.  Taste for seasoning.

Toss the lettuce with the dressing.  Sprinkle with croutons.  Toss again and taste for seasoning. 

If you’ll notice the photo, my Caesar’s Salad had diced chicken too.  I wanted to make it a complete meal with more protein, and not just from the egg and anchovy.  My chicken came from a box that Spouse introduced me to.  It’s Banquet’s Crispy Skinless Frozen Chicken.  It’s not the healthiest of foods,  but it’s convenient to have around.  I bake it on a rack so most of the fats drain and I always serve it with coleslaw or vegetables and a baked potato.

Bouchon
Bouchon