Archive for October, 2010

Et tu Caesar?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

I had always assumed that the Caesar salad was named after the Roman general, statesman, and eponymous character in the Shakespeare play.  Apparently not.  At least according to legend, the dish was created by an Italian-born Mexican restaurateur, Caesar Cardini, whose Tijuana restaurant ran out of the normal salad fixings during a Fourth of July dinner rush in 1924.

Subsequently, the Caesar has been linked to such culinary luminaries as Julia Child, who has described in detail her first taste of the salad at Cardini’s restaurant when she was a child (ha ha) in the 1920s.  And the Cardini family went on to become a huge name in the bottled dressing business.

The essential ingredients of the classic Cardini Caesar are: 1) romaine lettuce, 2) grated Parmesan cheese, 3) croutons, and 4) a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil, freshly crushed garlic, raw or “coddled” (slightly cooked) eggs, and Worcestershire sauce.  Because of salmonella concerns, however, many modern preparations omit the egg, but rely on mayonnaise as a substitute to produce a creamier product.

What about anchovies? They were not a component of the 1924 Cardini creation, although some salad chefs use them to simulate the taste of Worcestershire sauce.

Also, to make the Caesar salad a more substantial meal, many restaurants offer the addition of grilled chicken, meat, or fish.

So there is some flexibility when it comes to preparing a Caesar salad.  But there are also ingredients that should not be found anywhere near those romaine leaves.  I’m talking about tomatoes, carrots and hard-boiled eggs.  No, no and no!  And powdered Parmesan just doesn’t have the taste and texture of its freshly grated cousin.

Adherence to the iconic Cardini formula should be encouraged, thus ensuring that the Caesar will be praised and not buried.

Yours till the lettuce romaines,
NJL