I had a few heads (hearts?) of Romaine left over from a barbecue I hosted, and yesterday got the idea to make Caesar salad with them. I knew I had some old halves of French bread in the freezer and most of the other ingredients I would need (since I've now started keeping lemons and Parmesan cheese on hand at all times). I wanted to make one that was tasty (obvs) but simple. I had just read about how to make the fancy French version in Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone. (BTW - I really enjoyed the memoir by the former New York Times restaurant reviewer and Gourmet editor.) It involves coddled egg (which I learned is an egg boiled for one minute in the shell) and anchovies. It also had a somewhat complex set of steps for assembling the salad. I'm sure it's delicious, but it's not quite the direction I wanted to go last night.
So, I started with the usual suspects - my favorite blogs and recipe sights. And, holy croutons!, there are a lot of Caesar salad recipes out there. I found very traditional versions at The Reluctant Gourmet and allrecipes. They both involved using raw or coddled eggs. Others seemed a little more accessible, but still not perfect, like the Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, Martha Stewart and epicurious. So, I decided to take all of these not-quite-perfect recipes and combine them.
Then, lo and behold, a new blog I just started following happened to post a Simple Caesar Salad yesterday. Don't you love it when that happens? Like when you mention how much you love a song and then it comes on the radio. Thank you, Everybody Likes Sandwiches!
I made the recipe last night and it was delicious - exactly what I wanted. She has you make the croutons on the stove top in bacon grease (brilliant!). My only tip is to use a big pan or cook the croutons in batches. I dumped them all in my smaller cast iron and then had to take half of them out to make sure they all got crispy.
One final note: I found a really interesting vegan Caesar salad at 101 Cookbooks. I'd definitely be interested in trying this one out at some point.