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Classic Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

Serves: Makes 4 servings (as an appetizer or side dish)

Ingredients:

  • Croutons:
  • 4 slices bacon (5 ounces), cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 (½-inch) slices focaccia or ciabatta, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • Kosher salt

  • Dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons loosely packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 10 large romaine lettuce leaves (preferably from the heart), washed and spun dry (about 12 cups)
  • Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish


Procedures:

The raw egg yolk emulsifies the dressing so it is creamy and rich, but if you're concerned about serving uncooked eggs, either use pasteurized whole eggs, now available in some supermarkets, or else omit the yolk entirely. Focaccia or ciabatta make pleasantly toothsome croutons; if they're not available, English muffins are an excellent alternative. If you've never pureed garlic with the side of a chef's knife, here's your chance.

To make the croutons, set the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 minutes.

Transfer the bacon to a plate; leave the fat in the pan and the burner on medium-low.

Smash and peel the garlic. Add the oil and garlic to the skillet and let sizzle until the garlic is light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon out the garlic and discard it. Increase the heat to medium, add the bread, and season with a big pinch or two of salt.

Toast the bread, tossing the pieces frequently until golden brown on a few sides, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. (This yields more croutons than you'll need, so it's okay to munch a few.)

To make the dressing, mash the garlic and salt to a smooth puree using the side of a chef's knife. Scrape the puree into a small bowl. Mash the anchovy fillet to a paste the same way and add it to the bowl. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard to the bowl and whisk to blend. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to maintain the emulsion. Add the grated cheese and a few grinds of pepper and stir to combine.

Cut or tear the lettuce across the ribs into large bite-size pieces. Put them in a large wooden salad bowl. Drizzle about three quarters of the dressing on top and toss. The leaves should be just lightly coated; if needed, drizzle on the rest of the dressing. Add the croutons and bacon, and toss. Sprinkle the cheese shavings on the salad, plus a few grinds of black pepper, and serve.

by Sur La Table & Andrews McMeel Publishing, Knives Cooks Love

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