James McNair’s Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons


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



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



  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.

  • 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.



  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


  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


  • 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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