Caesar Salad

If you don't have a large mortar and pestle, you can easily make a paste with a chef's knife (see the text for directions). Keep in mind that this is a zesty, assertive dressing that comes into balance nicely when combined with the cool, crisp romaine and salty Parmesan. Note: If you're serving this salad to anyone with a compromised immune system, replace the raw egg yolk in the dressing with the yolk from a soft-boiled egg, or omit the egg yolk altogether. Serves four to six.

For the croutons:
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups torn pieces from a baguette or other crusty bread
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
2 large heads romaine lettuce
2 small cloves garlic
Coarse salt
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1 egg yolk (see note above)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 4 tsp.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
Scant 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano

For the croutons, warm the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bread pieces, toss to coat, and cook, turning periodically, until golden on the outside but still tender inside, 12 to 15 min. Let them cool in one layer on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the outer leaves of romaine until you reach the tightly packed heart (the leaves will be much paler); set the outer leaves aside for another use. Separate the leaves of the heart and slice them into pieces about 3 inches long (leave the smallest leaves whole) to yield a heaping 8 cups of loosely packed leaves. Rinse and dry very thoroughly.

Put the garlic and a pinch of coarse salt in a large (3- to 4-cup) mortar. Using a pestle, pound the garlic into a creamy, juicy paste (see the photo opposite). Add the anchovies, mashing until they're broken down into bits. Add the yolk, working the mixture into a paste. Work in the mustard and then the lemon juice. Blend in a pinch of black pepper, the Tabasco, and the Worcestershire. Switch to a whisk and drizzle in the olive oil, whisking continuously until blended and creamy.

Put the lettuce, parsley, and croutons in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Add the dressing and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with 2 to 3 Tbs. of the Parmesan and toss again. Serve immediately with the remaining cheese on the side.

Source of recipe: From Fine Cooking #46

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