This salad is a marriage of many recipes. I got the original dressing recipe from a former cook at Portland’s now-closed Zefiro restaurant, who probably borrowed it from Zuni Café in San Francisco, and I’ve changed it slightly over the years. The idea to use escarole came from my friend and former business partner Tommy Habetz, who worked at Lupa under Mario Batali. I like bitter greens but recognize that they can sometimes taste too bitter, which is why this is such a great recipe: the cheese, lemon, and anchovy help balance the whole thing out.
The dressing has a similar method to making aioli (see here for the proper whisking technique), but it’s more forgiving. Since this dressing uses a whole egg, rather than just yolks, it won’t emulsify to the same thickness as an aioli, so to achieve a nice creamy texture, you will need to pour the olive oil in a slow, steady stream while you quickly whisk. The dressing won’t come together fully until you add the cheese, and when you do, you’ll want to use it on everything.
The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for a few days if you make it ahead of time, but it’s important to let it come to room temperature before adding it to your salad. Because it’s so fatty, the dressing solidifies when chilled, and trying to toss cold dressing with fresh greens is like trying to dress a salad with butter—not an enjoyable experience.
Everyone has his or her favorite Caesar. Add more garlic, anchovy, or lemon as you like, but remember that flavors bloom as they sit, so make one final seasoning adjustment just before serving.
- Yield: 6 to 10 Servings
- 1 egg
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (from 4 to 5 fillets)
- 1½ teaspoons garlic paste
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup ground Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ¾ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- ¾ teaspoon fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ loaf day-old baguette
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 0.125 teaspoon salt
- 0.125 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 heads flat-leaf escarole, or 3 romaine hearts
- ½ lemon, seeded, optional
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated on a large-holed
- Microplane grater or shaved with a vegetable peeler, for garnish (optional)
- Anchovy fillets, for garnish (optional)
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
- MAKE THE DRESSING Place the whole unshelled egg in a small heatproof bowl and pour in boiling water to cover. Let the egg sit, submerged, for 1 minute. (Coddling the egg this way minimizes bacteria on the shell and helps the emulsification process.) Remove the egg from the water, crack it into a mixing bowl, and begin whisking with your dominant hand. When the yolk is broken up and smooth, slowly start drizzling in the oil while you whisk. You don’t have to work fast; it’s more important to whisk and pour consistently. When you’ve added about 2 tablespoons of the oil, add the mustard, and then continue to drizzle in the rest of the oil while whisking, until the mixture is totally emulsified, about 5 minutes.
- Add the anchovy paste, garlic paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Tabasco, and fish sauce and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- MAKE THE CROUTONS Preheat the oven to 325°F. Slice the baguette as thinly as possible, about ⅛ inch or the width of two quarters. As I cut, I smash it down with my nonslicing hand. Try to make the slices as even as possible so they will all take the same time to cook. Put the bread slices in a mixing bowl.
- In a small saucepan, warm the butter and oil over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Pour the warm butter-oil mixture around the perimeter of the mixing bowl holding the bread. Using your hands, toss the bread to coat it evenly with the fat, then season the bread with the salt and pepper. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet.
- Toast the bread, rotating the pan frequently. Check the croutons after 5 minutes, then set a timer for 1 minute and rotate the pan and check the croutons every minute for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the croutons are light golden brown. Remove any fully toasted slices as they are ready.
- MAKE THE SALAD Trim off the very end of the base of each escarole and discard the dark outer leaves (or use them in the quick-sautéed greens). Cut or tear the remaining pale green leaves into 3-inch pieces. If using romaine, trim off the very end of the base of each lettuce but leave the head intact. Slice the heads crosswise into three pieces, creating 2- to 3-inch pieces. Wash the greens and dry extremely well to ensure you don’t dilute the dressing with excess moisture.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooled croutons with ½ cup of the dressing and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the escarole on top of the croutons and spoon a generous amount of dressing—about ⅓ cup—over the greens. It’s better to be heavy-handed with this dressing than too light. Toss with your hands to combine well.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may wish to squeeze the lemon half over the top of the salad for a burst of freshness, especially if you made the dressing ahead of time. Garnish with a dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the anchovy fillets, and/or the parsley. Serve immediately.