I’m not going to get into the history of how this dressing came into existence--you can read all about it on a bottle of Cardini’s, since Caesar Cardini owns those bragging rights (though I’ve heard it disputed by others who claim the dressing may have other origins--if you know these stories please tell us about them in the comments section). What I do want to say is that a good Caesar salad -- as opposed to a bad one made with a bottled dressing like you get in most chain restaurants -- is one of the most perfect flavor combinations ever invented. Sometimes people just nail a dish--like Reuben Kulakofski, who is one of the men credited with inventing the Reuben Sandwich (it has also been credited to Arnold Reuben, from another time and place--if you know the true origin story, or other "true" versions, please dish it here!); or Rafael Esposito and the Margherita pizza (if he really is the one--that too is in dispute, but one within our PizzaQuest wheelhouse). My point is, regardless of who really invented these iconic foods, there are just some dishes that represent flavor perfection and Caesar salad is one of them. I credit it with being the dish that single-handedly turned me into a foodie when I was about 11 years old.
I get into arguments everywhere about who makes the best Caesar dressing, and I’ve had some good ones over the years, but I’d put the one below one up against any. One of the tricks is to use
oven roasted garlic in place of the fresh, not because the fresh doesn’t work but because it allows you to use more of it. If you prefer your salad with a little garlicky bite, by all means use a clove or four of fresh garlic. Either way, be prepared to eat twice as much of this salad as you think you should.
Caesar Salad Dressing
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough to dress 2 heads of romaine--you will need a big bowl or make just half a batch for a smaller salad)
2 to 4 anchovies, finely minced (or 1 to 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste)
10 cloves oven roasted garlic or up to 4 cloves fresh garlic, or a combination of both
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (any brand), or 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
1 whole, pasteurized egg, or 2 oz. liquid egg or liquid egg-replacer
(pasteurized eggs are the only way to absolutely assure safety from food born illness, though many of us still use raw, unpasteurized eggs)
Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend till smooth. OR, for table-side service, rub the inside of the salad bowl with one clove of raw garlic. With a fork or whisk, mix the remaining ingredients in the salad bowl, beginning with the anchovies and garlic, then gradually working in each of the other ingredients as listed, except the egg. Add the lettuce and croutons. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and pour it over the lettuce and toss everything together. Add up to one cup of grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, to taste (this is in addition to the cheese in the dressing), and serve.