What Makes A Good Caesar Salad?

By Adam Roberts, Epicurious.com

A good Caesar, like a good bagel, causes bad breath. If you eat a Ceasar salad and then make out with someone afterward, and if that someone doesn't pull away and say "Blech! Your breath is terrible!," you didn't eat a good Caesar. (That, by the way, is the ideal Caesar salad test.)

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A good Caesar salad has in its dressing raw garlic and anchovies. The other variables--egg yolk, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, Parmesan cheese--are important, but those first two ingredients are what make a Caesar a Caesar. They're the key ingredients because they pack so much punch, their absence will make a Caesar salad bland.

Now there are people in this world who say that they don't like anchovies but who love Caesar salad. These people either: (1) really like anchovies and don't know it; or (2) have never had a good Caesar salad. Chances are, most people fall into category 1, and so these people--maybe you're among them--need an anchovy intervention.

Send these people home with a link to my illustrated post How to Make a Caesar Salad and insist that they use real anchovies. If they still think they hate anchovies, then they've never had a good Caesar salad.
For me, a bad Caesar salad is a Caesar salad that's lightly dressed. If you pick up a leaf of romaine from a Caesar salad (and all good Caesars, by the way, are made with romaine; preferably, romaine hearts, still crisp and cool from the refrigerator), you should see the dressing clinging to it.

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If all you see is leaf, you are not eating a good Ceasar. Which is not to say that you should drown your Caesar in dressing. Too much dressing is also a sin; the key is getting just enough to coat the leaves. And I think this is best done by tossing the salad, adding more and more dressing, until the salad passes the individual leaf test (see previous paragraph).

The salad that you see in the above photo was consumed in Los Angeles at a restaurant called Golden State. What was nice about this Caesar--which was, in fact, a chicken Caesar, with freshly grilled chicken on top--was that even though there was a perfect amount of dressing, the salad didn't feel heavy at all. I think the secret there was a healthy amount of lemon juice, which brightens everything up and cuts against the intensity of the garlic and the anchovy.

But if you're not a fan of raw garlic and anchovies, a Caesar salad is probably not in the cards for you. Which is too bad because, as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the world's great salads.

For more Caesar salad recipes, click here.

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Photo: CN Digital Studio