Caesar's Salad

Adapting what Alton Brown claims is the original recipe from Caesar Cardini's Tijuana restaurant:

Took two jumbo eggs, left them out to warm to room temperature. Washed and dried the leaves of two Romaine lettuce hearts that I had stored forever against the day I actually tried to make the salad (I had to throw away a lot of wilted leaves), put them in the fridge to chill. Took a day-old loaf of Italian bread, cut it into cubic inches (more or less), spread them on a pan and stuck them for five minutes in a 350 degree oven to dry out. Using a mortar and pestle I bought at a Mexican grocery store (Wal Mart never heard of such nonsense), I grounded three cloves of garlic, a fourth of a teaspoon of salt, and four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and strained it into a 12-inch frying pan at medium heat.

I could only fry half the bread cubes at a time; it was a pain trying to get them to coat evenly. I finally figured out that I'm using way too little oil (hell with the recipe), filled half the mortar full of olive oil, and threw in another three cloves of garlic and a large pinch of salt (hell with teaspoons). I fried the second batch of bread cubes, sprinkled more salt on top, and they were much better--okay, they tasted fantastic. As a last preparatory step, I boiled two cups of water in a small saucepan, gently dropped in the eggs, boiled them for a minute, then dunked them in ice water to stop the cooking.

Got the lettuce leaves out, started tearing them into bite-size pieces. Added three tablespoons of olive oil, tossed to coat, added a pinch of salt and--well, the recipe called for seven grinds of pepper, but I used twice as many as I'm using one of those pathetic little plastic pepper grinders (I miss my Udinese wood grinder). Added two tablespoons of olive oil, tossed again. Recipe called for the juice of a lemon, I made it two; it also called for seven drops of Worcestershire sauce, and I made it seven dashes (ten in succeeding incarnations). Cracked the two eggs, mixed them in, and tossed until creamy. Grated a fourth of a cup (maybe half a cupful) of Parmesan, threw that in. Served the salad in bowls with the garlic croutons sprinkled on top.

Not bad. Making your own garlic croutons makes a difference. First time I tried it I followed the recipe exactly and all I could taste was Parmesan cheese and burnt croutons; now that I've upped the flavors, I could taste tangy dressing made rich by two coddled eggs.

Rosa Cardini, Caesar's daughter,claims that in 1953 the Parisian Society of Epicures called the salad the "greatest recipe to come out of the Americas in the past 50 years." Maybe, maybe not, but it was damned good salad.

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