This easy recipe for Kale Caesar Salad is made with tender massaged kale and a traditional homemade Caesar dressing with anchovies.
We're big fans of Caesar salad in this house. And by we, I really mean Chaser. I love a good Caesar and all, but he's the real aficionado. Anytime we go out to eat, if there's a Caesar salad on the menu, it will always find it's way onto our table. The option of not ordering it simply doesn't exist, which can be frustrating when there's lots of other intriguing items on the menu. A Caesar salad seems so mundane. So average. And more often than not, a major let down.
But when really made right, perfectly balanced with anchovy, garlic, mustard and lemon, with plenty of cheese and crunchy, homemade croutons, a good Caesar salad can be hard to beat. Over the years it's become a bit of a game for us to pick apart each salad we order and then size them up against all the other's we've had. So far, we think Cafe 2825 in Atlantic City makes the best. That is, for a restaurant.
There was always a Caesar salad on the table at our big Italian family gatherings. The rule in our family has always been, "the more garlic the better," and these salads were certainly no exception. Even if you only had one bite, you were guaranteed to be breathing fire for the remainder of the night, if not the next few days. I dabbled in making my own Caesars from time to time in my youth. In fact, I most vividly remember serving one at a dinner party my friend Anyah and I hosted when we were 12. But it wasn't until I met Chaser that I really upped my Caesar salad game.
When Chaser was a kid, his dad, Dave, worked as a server at a fine dining restaurant that specialized in making table side Caesar salads. Even though Dave never liked to eat it himself, he would always make them at home and eventually taught Chaser how to properly construct a Caesar salad himself. I'll never forget the first time Chaser offered to make me dinner. I walked in the kitchen to find him on the phone with his dad, going over all the steps of the process to make sure he had it just right. I thought it was adorable, the salad was delicious, and I was smitten for the cute boy who actually had the balls to cook me dinner. Since then, both Chaser and Dave have passed their knowledge down to me, but being the persnickety cook I am, I had to make a few tweaks.
Far and away, the most controversial thing I do is substitute a few tablespoons of mayo for the raw egg yolk. My poor grandfather is literally rolling in his grave. Anthony Genovese, aka Pop-Pop, was a man who shuddered, gagged and dramatically cringed at the mere thought of mayonnaise, especially in anything Italian. Most of his children followed suit, and even I grew up fairly mayonnaise-averse. To be honest, the idea of spreading a layer of the pale, viscous substance onto a sandwich still gives me the heebie jeebies. But I'm down to use mayo in certain applications if it makes sense, like in crab cakes, dips and in this case, Caesar dressing.
Chaser, a purist, disagrees. He prefers the raw egg yolk, but for me, I find it's just a bit too eggy. I only use a tiny bit of mayonnaise to help emulsify the dressing, so it has a looser, more runny texture, which I find helps it coat the leaves better. All mayonnaise is is eggs, oil and vinegar, anyway, so what's the fuss?
Aside from that, we agree on everything else. Plenty of garlic. Not too much mustard and definitely not too much Worcestershire. Anchovies are a must. Freshly cracked black pepper. Good parmesan cheese. And lots, and lots of lemon. As for the croutons, homemade only, please. Croutons are a great way to use up leftover bread, and they couldn't be easier to make. Plus, they'll keep in the cupboard for up to a few weeks, so they're great for making ahead. I had some leftover cornbread, so that's what I used for this recipe. Regular bread can be substituted in a pinch, but I really loved the cornbread's unique texture and slight sweetness.
We became privy to the kale Caesar salad a few years ago, and it's now really the only kind of Caesar we make at home. That's mostly because we have a never ending supply of kale coming out of the garden (even in January), but also because it's a slightly healthier version of a not-all-that-healthy-to-begin-with salad. The kale really stands up well to the bold, creamy dressing, and while it does lack that juicy crunch that romaine has, neither of us really miss it.
One year ago: Maple Berry Breakfast ClafoutisPrint