Y’know, I had never been much of a salad freak, but when my husband started making me delicious—and easy!—Caesar salads with just a rotisserie chicken, some Romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and store-bought extra-garlicky Caesar dressing, I was hooked. I even wrote about this simple “recipe” in my previous blog. Since we’ve moved to Austin, the Caesar salad is still in regular rotation for dinners at our place, but without the dressing we’d been loving in Montreal, we’ve been sampling various American brands in a quest to re-create the deliciousness of our Canadian favorite, Renée’s Mighty Caesar.
Sad to say, so far we just haven’t found anything that measures up to that pure garlic kick we love. (Heck, I even emailed Renée’s to ask where I could find ’em here in Austin, but so far their customer service department hasn’t bothered to reply.) We’ve tried Ken’s Creamy Caesar, Marzetti’s Supreme Caesar (they make a mean Ultimate Blue Cheese dressing that we use as a dip), Marie’s Creamy Caesar, and Safeway Select Fresh Garlic Caesar. The closest we’ve to the Holy Grail of the Renée’s Caesar is a mixture of Ken’s and Safeway’s Caesar dressings, and even that’s only okay.
What we really need to do, though, is whip up some homemade Caesar dressing, complete with anchovies!
This recipe is from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics, which is an excellent book (and now an iPhone app!) for anybody on a shoestring budget looking to get away from Kraft Dinner and ramen noodles on a nightly basis. It’ll teach you everything you need to know, and serves as a great Bible in the kitchen, the way some people look to Betty Crocker cookbooks or Julia Child. Since Bittman’s a lifelong minimalist, he’ll teach you how to produce big flavor from just a few good ingredients, and how to get the most of out of even the barest of kitchens (the dude actually cooks brilliant meals in a classically cramped NYC apartment with one of those miniature stoves and refrigerators, so he knows whereof he speaks).
In the meantime, I would suggest spicing up the Caesar with a turkey breast or even pork cutlets, pan-fried to perfection, if you think you’d be into it but don’t have the rotisserie chicken on hand. It’s a surprisingly versatile salad, and impresses people when you present it with real, hand-grated Parmesan cheese. I think that’s probably the key to looking good in the kitchen, in general, as a friend of mine once confided that her husband swore she was a brilliant chef solely based on her ability to buy the “good” Parmesan and grate it herself.
Rock on over London, rock on Chicago. Caesar salad in the hizzouse!