Caesar Salads that wow

KATE SEARS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Wall Street Journal
By Gabriella Gershenson
Image courtesy of Kate Sears for The Wall Sreet Journal

A classic never goes out of style. Still, an old favorite can storm back onto menus in unexpected ways, as the Caesar salad has of late.

The viral popularity of the kale Caesar helped launch the latest generation of riffs. Before considering these, however, it’s worth asking: What makes a Caesar a Caesar? I put the question to chef Javier Plascencia. His family owns 13 restaurants in Mexico, including the one in Tijuana where the Caesar was born.

Many are surprised to learn the salad is Mexican in origin. “Even when Mexican people find out, they always thought it was Italian,” said Mr. Plascencia. In fact, the inventor was an Italian American from California named Caesar Cardini, who opened his restaurant Caesar’s in Tijuana in the 1920s, when many Americans crossed the border to dine and drink beyond the reach of Prohibition. Mr. Cardini’s dressing, still the standard, contains anchovy paste, fresh lemon or lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, mustard, a coddled egg yolk and Parmesan, blended with oil to form a thick, glossy emulsion. Spears of romaine tossed with this dressing get a further sprinkling of grated Parmesan and a topping of garlicky croutons. The salad was designed to be eaten, like fries, with your hands.

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