From "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home"
Jacques Pepin cites this as one of his favorite classic recipes of Julia Child's that they made together. Child claimed to have first eaten a Caesar salad at a restaurant owned by Caesar Cardini-who is attributed with the salad's creation-when she was a child in the 1920s.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.
18 to 24 crisp, narrow leaves from the hearts of 2 heads of romaine lettuce, or a package of romaine hearts (about 1 pound)
1 cup plain toasted croutons
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup or more excellent olive oil
1 large egg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 whole lemon, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano only
Special equipment: A large mixing bowl; a small frying pan
You will probably need 2 large heads of romaine for 3 people - or use a commercially prepared package of "romaine hearts," if they appear fresh and fine. From a large head remove outside leaves until you get down to the cone where the leaves are 4 to 7 inches in length - you'll want 6 to 8 of these leaves per serving.
Separate leaves and wash carefully to keep them whole, roll loosely in clean towels, and keep refrigerated until serving time. (Save remains for other salads - fortunately, romaine keeps reasonably well under refrigeration).
To flavor the croutons, crush garlic clove with flat of a chef's knife, sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and mince well. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil on the garlic and mash again with knife, rubbing and pressing to make a soft purée.
Scrape purée into frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and warm over low-medium heat. Add croutons and toss for a minute or two to infuse them with garlic oil, and then remove from heat. (For a milder garlic flavor, you can strain purée though a small sieve into a pan before adding extra croutons. Discard bits of garlic.)
To coddle the egg, bring small saucepan of water to a simmer. Pierce the large end of the egg with a pushpin to prevent cracking, then simmer for exactly 1 minute.
Mixing and serving the Caesar:
Dress the salad just before serving. Have ready all the dressing ingredients and a salad fork and spoon for tossing.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the romaine leaves and toss to coat, lifting the leaves from the bottom and turning them towards you, so they tumble over like a wave. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, toss once or twice, then add lemon juice and several drops of Worcestershire, and toss again. Taste for seasoning, and add more, if needed.
Crack the egg and drop it right on the romaine leaves, then toss to break it up and coat the leaves. Sprinkle on the cheese, toss briefly, then add croutons (and the garlicky bits in the pan, if you wish) and toss for last time, just to mix them into the salad.
Arrange 6 or more leaves in a single layer on individual plates, scatter croutons all around, and serve.
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