I recently attended a comfort food themed potluck and last minute decided to bring… Caesar salad. Ok hear me out.The sign-up sheet full of pot pies and gratins and lasagnas, and I figured we could all use some salad. And also I had had houseguests all weekend and was pretty fried and needed something easy.
But I really do have a soft spot for Caesar salad. I used to eat it every day after school while watching 30 Minute Meals. Because how else do you unwind after a day of trig and sentence diagramming than with a salad made with so much cheese and too many croutons to soak up all that extra Newman’s Own? After Rachael was done making chicken a la king, I’d follow it up with a marathon of Law & Order because it played simultaneously on both TNT and TBS. Cheers to you, Lenny Briscoe.
These days, I rarely order it out. Restaurants have gotten pretty great about salads with things like persimmon and tahini and spicy peanut brittle and what not so it’s hard to default to romaine. Fortunately, it’s simplicity means it’s pretty easy to pull off at home. My favorite time to make one is not unsimilar to how I used to eat it all those years ago. After a busy morning, sitting by myself, probably listening to a podcast (or let’s be honest, Harry Potter on Audible.)
My version contains the usual suspects–romaine, Parm, crunchy bread, anchovy, egg yolk, but it’s a bit topsy turvy. This is a salad for one, and I like to stick with pantry staples and keep things as easy as possible.
There are always those three packs of hearts of romaine kicking around my fridge, and I’m never without good parmesan. Anchovies? Always on hand. But rather than making an oily mess on the cutting board, I just use a few drops of fish sauce. I also skip the raw egg yolk in the dressing because I definitely want a crispy egg with a runny yolk on top instead. A final topping of Aleppo pepper and sumac spiked breadcrumbs stands in for those highly seasoned bagged croutons I rarely have on hand.
Romaine is standard, but feel free to sub in whatever greens you like. Kale is obligatory these days. Remove the ribs, and slice into fine ribbons. I would toss it and let it sit for a few minutes in the dressing before preparing the egg and the breadcrumbs to let it soften a bit. Little Gems are one of my favorite variations. I tend not to slice these, but instead just removing the stem end and pulling the little leaves apart. And finally, escarole is excellent during the winter. If you’re up for a bit of extra work, it’s very good blackened. Cut the escarole in half (or quarters–they can get very big). Heat a cast iron pan over high with a bit of oil. Add the escarole cut down down, press down, and count to ten. Remove to a cutting board, slice it up, and proceed as written.