When I was a little kid (eons ago), my dad & his pals were out fishing one day, when they ran across a flotilla of bottles while chasing dolphin (mahi-mahi for you foodies) out in the Gulf Stream. It turned out that this was a big promotion for the (now-defunct) Columbus Hotel, free nights at the hotel, dinners for two at the Top of the Columbus, etc. to attract tourists Up North, not the locals!
However, the locals scored big that day…and for what seems to me like years, my parents, grandparents, and their friends would drive down to Miami for dinner or a weekend. One of my dad’s favorite things “The Top” served was the Caesar Salad, and he worked diligently (maybe for years?) to re-create their recipe. This is basically what he came up with, and which I have slightly tweaked.
Ingredients: 3 anchovies (or 1 1/2 tbsp. Anchovy Paste); 2 big cloves garlic, peeled & chopped fine; ¼ tsp. kosher salt; ¼ tsp. coarse ground (fresh) black pepper; ¼ cup key lime juice (I use a mix of lemons and limes if I can’t get Key Limes); ½ cup good olive oil; ¼ cup parmesan (freshly grated) or the Costco kind (plus a bit more for topping salad & croutons); 1 egg; 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, spun or dried, and torn into pieces (you can cut it if you are going to serve immediately); 2 cups de-crusted white bread cubes, about 3/4″; ½ stick butter.
Saute the bread cubes in the butter until golden brown, remove from pan and sprinkle w/a bit of salt & grated parmesan as soon as you take them out of the pan. Leave uncovered until ready to serve (it’s okay for them to dry out a bit, as you want them to soak up the yummy dressing).
In a small bowl, mash the anchovies & garlic with the salt, using the back of a fork, mashing into a paste (if you use the anchovy paste instead, don’t add the salt). Add the lime juice to dilute, whisking well. Add the ground black pepper and the egg, whisking well. Continue whisking, slowly add the olive oil. (You can hold it covered in the fridge at this point). Just prior to serving, add the parmesan cheese, whisk again. Check the seasoning for salt. Pour the dressing into your (big is better) salad bowl. In your salad bowl, add the lettuce to the salad dressing, gently tossing from the bottom. When coated, add the croutons and toss again. Sprinkle with MORE parmesan prior to serving, passing the pepper mill to suit individual diners’ tastes.
I hadn’t made this recipe in a long, long time, but made it by special request for my friend Shanon’s big birthday bash the other night. I’d forgotten just how good, and easy, homemade Caesar Salad is. And of course, it is a funny story. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching, but one never knows what one will find out on the briny blue sea! Bon appetit.
~ Blonde Gator