strip away the tougher outer leaves and use the hearts of romaine. Cut them into inch wide strips lengthwise and then cut crosswise into perhaps one inch to one and half inch squares. My preference is to then wash the lettuce in lukewarm water so it will wilt and all of the grit can be easily drain to the bottom of the sink. Follow that with a quick whirl in a salad spinner or a kitchen towel to get rid of all excess moisture. Wrap the leaves gently in some paper toweling. Store it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes and it will be as crisp as crisp lettuce can be. You can store them up to 12 hours ahead. Just make sure they are not too wet. Change the paper toweling if needs be.
Dice the anchovies into 1/2 inch pieces -- no larger. Use enough to flavor the salad, but not so many to overwhelm it. Originally canned anchovies were the only possibility, but the milder white Anchovies can be used and you may want to use more than the 2 to 4 fillets suggested in the recipe. Coddle the egg by putting it into a pan of boiling water for 1 minute. That is enough to thicken the white slightly so it will cling to the salad. If you are concerned about eating raw or undercooked eggs, you do not want a Caesar salad. Make something else. That dictum also applies to anchovies, you do not like them—well you do not like Caesar salad. Move on. Finally the cheese, must be a good quality freshly-grated Parmesan, Pre-grated cheese loses its flavor quickly and if it comes in a green can or is from somewhere other than Italy it is a fake. You are probably also willing to buy a Rolex from some guy on a street corner.
It is time to prepare the salad, serve and enjoy. By mixing the ingredients separately, you will achieve a different flavor than if you mixed them in a separate container and poured the dressing over the top.
There is a trick to tossing salad. Take a long handled spoon in your right hand and a long handled fork in the left. Put the spoon in the bowl just in front of you and the fork on the opposite side of the bowl. Pull the fork side towards you, as you push the spoon to the bottom of the bowl and towards the opposite side. Repeat this rolling motion until the ingredients are evenly coated with dressing and well mixed. It helps to give the bowl a quarter turn several times as you do the tossing.
To finish the salad, in the kitchen or, perhaps, once you become adept, in front of your guests, gather all the ingredients. Use a generous sized salad bowl to mix the salad. In the past wooden salad bowls were de rigueur, but the oils that remain in the bowl can turn rancid, so my preference is a glass bowl. Cut a garlic clove in half and with your fingers rub the cut side against the sides of the bowl, mashing it to release the raw garlic flavor before you discard the physical remains. Yes there is such a thing as too much garlic! Be judicious here. Add the romaine and toss with the olive oil to coat the leaves evenly. Add the croutons, anchovies and squeeze lemon juice over the top and mix again. If you like a sharp salad, add more lemon juice. Season the salad with salt and pepper and toss gently. Crack the egg open over the salad and toss it with the greens and some of the Parmesan cheese. Please do not smother the salad with cheese. After serving the salad you can offer extra cheese and here is the place to offer shavings of Parmesan instead of gratings for a different look.
This recipe is from James Beard, I have made some of the instructions clearer, but other than that it is a classic. Make it and you too will realize how often what is provided elsewhere is pretty bad, grilled chicken 3 dollars extra or not.
CAESAR SALAD JAMES BEARD
4 slices bread cut into cubes
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 heads romaine, washed, dried and chilled
½ cup olive oil
2-4 or more anchovy fillets, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg coddled 1 minute
½ to ¾ cup grated Parmesan
In a skillet, sauté the bread cubes in the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil with 3 garlic cloves until golden and drain on paper toweling. Remove garlic cloves as they color.
Rub a salad bowl with the remaining garlic, add the greens and toss with the oil and toss well.
Add the croutons, anchovies and lemon juice to taste.
Toss lightly and taste for salt and pepper.
Add the egg and a ½ cup of grated cheese. Toss well and add additional cheese if desired
Serve immediately. Yields 8 servings.