James McNair’s Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

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One of my favorite wedding gifts looked like this wooden salad bowl and stand.  It got lots of use for many years.

 

Twenty years ago, my husband and I received a beautiful wooden salad bowl with a stand and tongs along with a salad cookbook, “James McNair’s Salads,” as a wedding gift.  The stand is long gone but we still use the large bowl and I have memorized the recipe for Caesar Salad with homemade garlic croutons – and serve it on special occasions!

Here’s the recipe from the cookbook and a brief excerpt from the Author’s Introduction:

Since its inception in a Tijuana restaurant, this classic has never gone completely out of favor.  Recent years have seen the resurgence of its popularity in America’s trendsetting restaurants.

I prefer to leave the lettuce leaves whole, to be picked up with the fingertips for nibbling.  If you would rather use a fork, break the leaves before tossing them with the dressing.

The dressing may be made without the traditional coddled egg; a drizzle of heavy cream will add the richness normally provided by the egg.  James McNair

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Wash, dry, and chill the lettuce leaves.  Prepare the Croutons

Croutons

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  2. About 1/2 cup fruity olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  3. 2 tablespoons minced or pressed garlic
  4. 4 cups day-old bread, preferably French style, cut into cubes or thin slices.

    Directions
  • In a large sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat
  • Add the garlic and bread and toss until the bread pieces are well coated.
  • Reduce the heat to low (or transfer to a preheated 350º F oven) and cook, stirring and turning frequently, until the bread is golden on all sides, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the bread to paper toweling to drain and cool slightly.
  • Use immediately, or cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 1 day.

Salad

Ingredients

  1. 4 medium-sized heads romaine lettuce, tough outer leaves discarded, separated into about 48 leaves
  2. 4 cups Croutons, made with plenty of garlic

CAESAR DRESSING INGREDIENTS

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 6 flat anchovy fillets, drained and minced
  3. 1 tablespoon minced or pressed garlic
  4. 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  5. 1 cup fruity olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  6. About 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  7. About 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. About 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiano-reggiano
  10. Freshly ground black pepper for serving

DIRECTIONS

  • Just before serving the salad, prepare the dressing.
  • Bring a small post of water to a rapid boil over high heat.  Place the eggs, one at a time, on a spoon, lower them into the boiling water, and boil for 1 minute.  Transfer the eggs to cold water to cool.  Break the eggs, separating the yolks into a small bowl; discard the whites.
  • Add the anchovy fillets, garlic, mustard oil and about half of the lemon juice to the yolks and whisk to blend.
  • Whisk in the remaining lemon juice, or more to taste, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl, combine the whole lettuce leaves, about half of the croutons, and half of the cheese.
  • Add the dressing to taste and toss well.
  • Arrange the salad on a serving platter or individual plates.
  • Sprinkle the remaining croutons and cheese and serve immediately.
  • Pass a pepper mill at the table.

Serves 10 to 12 as a salad course, or 6 to 8 as a light main course

 

 

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