Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ultimate or Proper Ceasar Salad

What makes a ceasar salad ultimate or proper? Is it the fact that the recipe came from Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Heaven? Or is it attention to detail, the elements of a dish all fully understood, made from scratch and combined in a way that is more inspired by a recipe rather than being the recipe? I think it's a little of both. Ramsay certainly has more imagination and skill than me when it comes to food.

As you know, ceasar salad is very simple: lettuce (the celebrity chef calling for baby gem lettuces but the resourceful me settling with organic romaine), croutons, some sort of bacon, and dressing. The dressing is really the make or break here. That crap they sell in bottles which overpowers everything is NOT ceasar salad dressing; that's what it says on the bottle but they're lying. Real ceasar salad dressing is garlic to taste, Parmesan cheese, eggs, Dijon mustard, lemon, anchovy fillets or paste, and olive oil. The egg and the olive oil make a sort of mayonnaise while the other elements add most of the flavour.

What the recipe called for afterwards was:
- baby gem lettuces (see note above)
- ciabatta loaf to make croutons (I just used some stale bread I had on hand)
- pancetta thinly sliced and crisped (which I replaced with crisped prosciutto)
- soft-poached eggs (no modifications there)
- fresh anchovy fillets (the canned variety was I don't know if I've ever seen a fresh sardine)
- Parmesan cheese shavings (all out unfortunately)

The only thing I added to the salad was pork which I'd thought would be necessary in order to make this salad a meal; it wasn't.

What I find interesting about salads is their versatility. They're fresh, usually healthy, and when done right they're arguably better than a steak dinner. Unfortunately, proper salad, like proper soup, is something people are no longer used to. We've been accustomed to crap imitations which are just as expensive as the real deal. But I don't feel like going off on a rant tonight. Just know that this salad was good and proper. There.

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