Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Julia Child's Caesar Salad

Mothers have a secret little alarm that goes off in their head when their children are too quiet. I was tidying around the house and doing laundry one Saturday morning back in the early nineties, when I was deafened by the silence in my house. I panicked and dropped everything to go see what the ladygirls could possibly be up to. I found the two of them in the family room absolutely riveted to a program on the television.

I glanced over to see what they were watching, and it was a Julia Child cooking show on the PBS. My girls were cooking show junkies long before the FoodNetwork was ever invented. Julia was in the middle of preparing some sort of stew, so I sat down to watch also. The girls were very young at the time, so I can only imagine Sesame Street ended and they stayed tuned as Julia Child came on. As she was cooking away, she had a big glass of red wine she was sipping on. She would pour some wine into the pot and then a big glass for herself, talking and instructing all the while. This was my kind of chef! As the show progressed, I noticed that Julia developed a flush on her face from the wine, and then suddenly, the button on the breast of her blouse popped open and her Playtex Cross Your Heart Bra was clearly visible! She seemed not to notice, and just kept cooking away. Her voice grew louder and she became more animated with every sip she took. Suddenly tufts of hair were bobbing around as she was bouncing around the kitchen and talking in an almost sing song voice! Bailey and Kelly still sat motionless, almost as if in a trance. They were clearly in love. I couldn't help but mention that Julia was three sheets to the wind by the time the show ended, but none of us cared. She was absolutely adorable. We never missed an episode of her show for years after that.

Julia was our cooking role model and trying out her recipes became our favourite pastime. So today, in honour of her 100th birthday, here is her Caesar Salad recipe which is the only one I ever use. Happy Birthday Lovely Lady!

1 head of romaine lettuce
2 large cloves of garlic
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 cups of homemade toasted croutons
2 eggs
Juice of a lemon
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan. the best you can afford.

Wash and dry the romaine. Tear into pieces, discarding the tough rib portions.Place the torn lettuce into your salad bowl and cover with damp paper towels and refrigerate.
For the croutons:
Slice bread into 3/8 inch size cubes and toast them off in the oven.
Mince and mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Strain into a small frying pan, pressing the oil out of the garlic. Heat over medium heat and add the toasted croutons when hot. Stir them around for a minute or two coating them with the oil. Drain on paper towels.
For the eggs:
Pierce the large end of the eggs with a push pin or a needle and lower them into a pan of boiling water. Boil for exactly one minute and remove and set aside.
To assemble the salad:
Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil over the romaine and toss to coat the leaves nicely. Sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of salt, several grinds of pepper and toss again. Squeeze on the lemon juice, add 6 drops of Worcestershire, break in the eggs and toss to blend.Taste a leaf and correct the seasoning. Toss briefly with the cheese and finally with the croutons. Serve it up. (This recipe does not include anchovies, but I usually add them because I like them. I mash up about 6 anchovies with a bit of olive oil and toss them around just before I add the cheese.)
I have a strong hunch that Julia would enjoy a lovely glass of wine with this salad. So I'm going to make it for dinner tonight and raise my glass in a toast to the most inspirational chef of all time! Cheers!

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