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.Print
I’ve included exact measurements here, but this is more of a splash and dash sort of a situation. Eyeball it and taste as you go. The dressing will seem quite sharp on it’s own, but it will mellow out once the runny yolk mingles in with everything.
The Aleppo pepper and sumac are optional, but highly recommended. They add an extra layer of twang with their fruity, mildy hot sharpness.
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons lemon juice (half a small lemon)
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
dash of fish sauce
half a small garlic clove
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (or more, you do you)
freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 heart of romaine lettuce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
pinch of Aleppo pepper and sumac (optional)
Prepare you greens. Halve the lettuce down the middle, then cut crosswise into 1″ long sections. Wash and dry and set aside until needed. (I am a huge salad spinner advocate!)
Next, choose a bowl large enough to comfortably fit your lettuce with room to toss it without making a mess. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and fish sauce to the bottom of the bowl. Smash half of the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife on your cutting board. Finely chop it, then add to the vinegar mixture. Use a small whisk to mix in the mayo–it will be kinda lumpy, that’s ok! It will smooth out as you drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly as you do so. Stir in the cheese and as much pepper as you like (I like a lot).
Heat the last tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the cleaned lettuce to the bowl with the dressing (don’t mix yet!). Crack the egg into the skillet–it will bubble and hiss! (You can crack the egg into a small dish first and pour it into the pan if you find that easier.) Season with salt and pepper and let cook for two minutes. Meanwhile, toss the lettuce with the dressing.
Remove the egg to the top of your salad. Return the pan to the stove and reduce the heat to medium. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let cook for about 30 seconds, until browned and crunchy. Season with salt and pepper, and a pinch of Aleppo pepper if desired. Pour over the salad and eat immediately, preferably on a stool in the kitchen while listening to a podcast.