Pick the youngest crunchiest romaine heads you can find. Keep them crisp, before and after cleaning, in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Even if you pick young, crispy lettuce, you should use only the pale-green and yellow inner leaves for this salad. But don’t throw out the outer leaves. Shred them and stir them into soups, or into a pan full of sautéed fresh peas.
The dressing shouldn’t be too dense; it should be just thick enough to coat each leaf tightly. The cheese that is added at the end will thicken it a little. Oil and vinegar stirred in at the end is a little touch of mine. It’s how we serve the salad at Lidia’s Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Another little touch that looks nice on a plate is to set one or two whole romaine leaves on the plat and pile the cut leaves over it. Shaving Grana Padano over the finished salad looks nice and tastes nice too. It’s a good thing to keep in mind for other salads as well.
Traditionally, Caesar salad was made with a barely cooked egg. Here I use a hard-boiled egg, as I do in my restaurants, for safety reasons.
- 2 cups cubed (1/2 inch) firm textured white bread
- 3 young, firm heads romaine or one 18-ounce package hearts of romaine
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, plus more for dressing the salad
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano, plus a block of Grana Padano for shaving
To hard boil the eggs: Place the eggs in a saucepan. Pour in enough cold water to cover the eggs by at least three fingers. Bring the eggs to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand in the water until cooled to room temperature. To peel the eggs: remove the eggs from the water, and roll them on a hard surface to crack the shells. Return the eggs to the water for a few minutes before peeling.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake, tossing them once or twice so they cook evenly, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove and cool (the croutons) may be prepared up to a day in advance. If necessary, re-crisp them in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes.)
If using whole heads of romaine lettuce, remove the darker outer leaves to expose the pale-green center. Reserve the outer leaves for another use, if you like. Cut out the core and separate the hearts of romaine into individual leaves. Wash the leaves in a sink of cool water and drain them well, preferably in a salad spinner. Place the leaves in a large bowl, cover them loosely with damp paper towels, and store in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.
Combine 2 tablespoons vinegar, the lemon juice, garlic, and anchovies in a blender or the work bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth, adding some of the 1/3 cup olive oil if there isn’t enough liquid to move the mixture around the blender jar. Add the mustard, hard-boiled egg yolk, salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and remaining, olive oil if any. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste the dressing; if it’s a little too tangy, pour in a splash or two of olive oil and blend until it’s incorporated.
Stack the leaves in a large, preferably wooden serving bowl. Bring the bowl to the table and, using a salad fork and spoon, cut the leaves into 1-inch pieces, as used to be done tableside at Italian-American restaurants. ) Of course, you can cut the leaves with a knife beforehand. Pour the dressing over the salad, add a splash of vinegar and a healthy splash of olive oil, and toss until all the leaves are coated with dressing. Toss in the croutons and ground black peppers to taste.
Lastly (so it doesn’t clump), sprinkle the grated cheese over the salad, tossing as you add. Serve on chilled plates and, with a vegetable peeler, shave some of the block of Grana Padano over each serving.