Wednesday, September 28, 2011

House Caesar

{MiddleBar's House Caesar}
The Caesar salad, the emperor of all greens has been America's favorite throughout 20th century.  Although it’s a dish synonymous with Italian restaurants the Caesar did not hail from Tuscany, it was actually created in Tijuana.

Whenever there is a fantastic epicurean favorite there seems to always be a mythical story about the creation of the famed dish.  Most legends include a chef caught off guard either at the end of the shift, when the restaurant is closed, or when stocks are low.  As the story usually goes, these unsuspecting chefs go to any length to please their inconvenient customers by creating a sort of “kitchen sink” recipe. You’d be surprised at how many times this legend is used to describe many culinary inventions:

Was the Cobb Salad created by Robert Cobb after a long shift where he was hungry and threw all the kitchen leftovers into a bowl?

Did Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invent nachos by throwing cheese over some leftover tortillas when his restaurant was closed to please some US soldier’s wives?

And was it Cesar Cardini in his Tijuana restaurant who produced the Caesar salad after he ran out of supplies on July 4th 1924 (or perhaps it was his brother in 1927)?

Were all these combinations just made out of necessity not ingenuity? Or perhaps a little bit of both?

The Caesar Salad’s beginning is often disputed and even the Cardini’s themselves disagree on the origin. It is clear that the salad became very popular among socialites and Hollywood celebrities that spent their weekends partying south of the border during prohibition. That being said, it was probably either Caesar, his brother Alex or their partner Paul Maggoria at their restaurant in Old Tijuana that concocted the salad.

{The Original Caesar's Bar and Grill 5th and Main Tijuana Old Mexico}
Even though the Caesar was not documented on any menu until 1946 people were apparently loving it. Julia Child claimed to have tasted the salad made table side by Caesar himself when she visited Tijuana as a child with her parents.  The Caesar owes quite a bit to Ms. Child who further popularized the salad in her book years later after consulting with Caesar’s daughter Rosa on her father’s original recipe. 

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remember his every move, but I don't. The only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.
~Julia Child’s Kitchen

The original salad was simple, creative, and delicious.  The House Caesar is a deconstructed take on this classic. This caesar doesn't contain raw eggs because we're saving those for the Pisco sours ;) We substitute butter lettuce for romaine and anchovies for the worcestershire sauce seen in the original recipe. Caesar's recipe did not "officially" call for olive oil but with salad it is a must! 

1 head of living butter lettuce
1 large lemon
Colavita Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 jar of rolled anchovies with capers in oil (white anchovies make an amazing upscale addition but a jar of high end anchovies works just fine)
salt, pepper, garlic salt, shaved parmesan cheese

On one large platter fan out a cleaned head of butter lettuce.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the entire salad. Add salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and top with rolled anchovies and parmesan cheese. 

The one thing that makes it authentic is the ability to eat the salad by hand which was how Caesar would want you to enjoy it!

Godere (that's Italian for enjoy) Ya'll!!

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