My husband and I, when we were first going out spent many Friday evenings there savoring the wonderful meals that they served us (as well each others company of course) This place came to mean so much to us that we even had our wedding luncheon there!
Our closest family and friends were in attendance - they'd flown in from all over the world. The hotel had set up this long table with their finest linens and crystal and the Executive Chef prepared his signature rack of lamb. It was an unforgettable day and what an amazing way to start our new life together.
And so when I tell you, that the Olive Tree, Singapore serves one of the finest Caesar salad I have ever had - you'd better believe it!
The perfect Caesar salad is a world where the crispest freshest romaine lettuce comes together with toe curling good dressing (made from scratch of course), crisp sourdough croutons, anchovy fillets and for me the final touch of crispy bacon....yup I said bacon. I know people look at me funny when I tell them that I love bacon in my Caesar but it's actually quite good. Give it a try you may just love it!
Now there are a gazillion recipes for this salad out there. Some with eggs, some without eggs, some with tofu and some even chipotle chiles! Well, when it comes to my Caesar salad, I am a bit of a purist so I prefer to channel the guy who created it - Italian-Mexican Chef Cardini who first prepared it in Tijuana Mexico back in 1924.
Begin with very fresh hearts of romaine lettuce. Discard any leaf that looks remotely wilted or brown on the edges. Separate each leaf and discard the knob at the bottom. Wash and pat dry with kitchen paper towels. Refrigerate till ready to us and for at least an hour so the lettuce is nice and crisp.
Option 1 - Use raw eggs - this is common practice and quick and easy.
Option 2 - I am curious about the difference in the taste and texture using the original method - with coddled eggs.
To coddle an egg, place in warm water and once it reaches boil, set the timer to 40 seconds. Remove from the stove immediately and break the egg into a bowl. A coddled egg is a runny egg. It is supposed to lends a lovely texture to the dressing - let's see shall we?
point many recipes ask that you crush the anchovies and garlic with the
back of a spoon as well as discard garlic after. Have you ever tried crushing garlic and anchovies with the back of your spoon? Its almost impossible! The stuff just goes round and round without suffering any crushing.
In my opinion, its actually imperative to use a chopper/blender with one of those openings in the lid that will allow you to pour in the olive oil from top. And I do not discard the garlic either, its actually quite lovely in it.
there is some dispute about whether anchovies were used in
Cardini's original recipe but I do not recommend omitting the
anchovies. It give the dressing a depth and complexity of flavor and it's nothing like
eating the fish straight out of the can. Trust me - I've
tried (and I actually love it...smiles..)
Transfer the dressing ingredients into a mini chopper/blender -
- Crushed garlic and anchovies
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard
- Coddled eggs or 2 raw eggs along with the lemon juice, salt and pepper
Pulverize till it looks completely blended.
Place the blender on the lowest setting possible. Pour the oil into the blender slowly and blend until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
Cooks Note - If you do not drizzle the oil slowly into the mix, it will not emulsify so this is very important.
Alternatively, it is suggested that one can do this with a whisk. You can pour the oil by hand and whisk until the consistency is smooth and creamy but I do not recommend it.
I tried this method and its a lot of whisking and finally I just got fed up and went back to the blender. So not only did I waste time, I had even more washing to do (yuck!)
Cover the dressing and refrigerate the dressing till it is ready to use.
before serving, place 1" bite sized torn/cut pieces of romaine lettuce in a large salad bowl. It is better to add the dressing first, then the bacon and the croutons at the end so you don't end up with dressing soggy croutons. Toss till well mixed.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave slices of aged Parmigiano reggiano cheese. Spread over the salad.
To raw or coddle the eggs? - Having prepared the dressing both ways with raw eggs & coddled eggs, I could taste no discernible difference. So unless you have an 'ew factor' about raw eggs, use them & save yourself some time!
Both the dressings were creamy smooth with a rich flavor and just the right amount of saltiness and tang. The romaine lettuce, crisp and the croutons, buttery and crunchy. All in all, an overwhelming success!
So, fix yourself this salad, sit back, pour yourself a glass of Pinot Grigio or Sangiovese and just may be, you too can experience the flavor of that unforgettable Caesar salad at the Olive Tree!
Preparation time - 15 minutes
Baking time - 10 minutes
Assembly time - 5 minutes
1 - 1/2 large hearts of Romaine lettuce
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3/4 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup shaved aged hard Parmigiano reggiano cheese
5 bacon strips
6 anchovy fillets
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup excellent quality Olive Oil
2 raw eggs at room temperature or 2 coddled eggs
4-5 slices stale sourdough or french bread, cut 3/4" thick
1/4 to 1/2 cup melted butter
Romaine lettuce - Discard any leaf that looks remotely wilted or brown on the edges, separate each leaf and discard the knob at the bottom. Wash and pat dry with kitchen paper towels. Refrigerate till ready to us and for at least an hour so the lettuce is nice and crisp.
Cheese - Using a vegetable peeler shave off about 1/2 cup for garnish.
Bacon - Heat a non-stick frying pan or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add bacon strips. Cook, for 3 to 4 minutes on both sides or until bacon is crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel and Cool.
Croutons - Preheat oven 400 deg C. Cut a few slices of stale sourdough or french bread into 3/4" cubes. Pour melted butter and toss. You can also sprinkle some herbs if you have. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Bake on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes till golden brown. Cool completely before using.
Coddled Egg (if using) - Coddle
an egg by placing in warm water and once it reaches an angry boil set a timer to
40 seconds. Remove from stove immediately and break the egg into a bowl. If you are not using the coddled egg just remove an egg from fridge to bring to room temperature.
Dressing - Place the garlic, anchovies, eggs, Dijon mustard, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Pulverize to a smooth texture.
Use a blender with one of those openings in the lid. Then on the lowest setting , slowly drizzle oil into the mix till emulsified into a smooth and creamy dressing. If using a wire whisk, pour the oil in a slow steady drizzle while whisking away. Whisk until the dressing is smooth and creamy. Cover the dressing and refrigerate till ready to use.
Cooks Note -
If you pour the oil too soon it will not emulsify.
Right before you are ready to serve, tear the romaine lettuce to 1" pieces in a large salad bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Then add the bacon and the croutons and finally the shaved Parmesan cheese.Serve immediately.
Do you have a favorite salad recipe you would like to share with us? If so please let us know about it in the comments.We would love to hear from you!