How to make the perfect Caesar salad and the common mistakes to avoid

Beloved by hotel menus and people with excellent taste, perfect Caesar salad is surprisingly easy to whip up at home
How to make the perfect Caesar salad and the common mistakes to avoid

The perfect Caesar salad is just moments away.

Crisp as they come

Keep your lettuce in the fridge until just before you serve. Caesar salad is an immediate flop when served on a limp leave. If storing washed lettuce in the fridge, gently wrap it in a kitchen towel and it will keep crisp and salad-ready for longer. 

Salt and acid are key to balance

You might think of the Caesar as a rich creamy salad and you're right. But, the reason why the dressing works so well is that it is balanced with acid (lemon juice) and salt (anchovies). 

Homemade is the best made

If you can't bear to make your own mayonnaise for the dressing, that's fine. Add the lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco to about 400ml readymade mayonnaise. 

Use Parmesan

It's essential to use Parmesan in a Caesar salad - at a pinch, you will get away with Pecorino but you will be missing a punch of flavour. 

Season well

Caesar salads taste better in restaurants because everything has been seasoned within an inch of its life. Be generous with salt and pepper for an optimum result. 

Serve immediately

Dress this salad only just before you serve it - mushy Caesar will turn your guests off forever. 

Don't forget the croutons

If you can't eat bread, serve tiny chunks of roast potato on top of your salad for crunch. 

Caesar salad

recipe by:Darina Allen

Light, creamy and delicious - a proper Caesar salad is hard to beat

Caesar salad

Servings

4

Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

5 mins

Total Time

15 mins

Course

Side

Cuisine

Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of Cos (Romaine) lettuce

  • 50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano if possible)

  • 2 slices white bread, diced into 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  •  For the dressing:

  • 2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1 x 50g tin anchovies

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • a generous pinch of English mustard powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • ½-1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • ½-1 tbsp Tabasco sauce

  • 175ml sunflower oil

  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil

  • 50ml cold water

  • For the croutons:

  • 1 slice of slightly stale pan bread

  • sunflower or olive oil

Method

  1. Wash the lettuce leaves, dry really thoroughly and chill lightly wrapped in a tea-towel in a bowl while you make the dressing.

  2. I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally, whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

  3. Next make the croutons. Cut the crusts off the bread, next cut into 5mm strips and then into exact cubes (a cube is a six-sided square with equal sides). Heat the sunflower or olive oil in a frying pan, it should be at least 2cm (3/4 inch) deep and almost smoking.

  4. Add the croutons to the hot oil.  Stir once or twice, they will colour almost immediately.  Put a tin sieve over a Pyrex or stainless steel bowl.  When the croutons are golden brown, pour the oil and croutons into the sieve.  Drain the croutons on kitchen paper.

  5. To serve, put a tablespoon of dressing per person in a big bowl, add in the chilled whole lettuce leaves, croutons and about half the parmesan. Toss the leaves gently but thoroughly in the dressing. This is done most effectively with the hand, but if this does not appeal to you, use salad servers. Add more dressing if necessary to coat the leaves. Arrange the dressed leaves on individual chilled plates. Scatter the crisp croutons over the top and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top.   Serve immediately.

  6. Note: The remaining dressing will keep covered in a fridge for several days.

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up