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Caesar salad with seared salmon steaks

Growing up, on Friday nights we would have pizza and Caeser salad. The pizza invariably had a Boboli crust, and we made our Caesar salad from a kit in a box. It was the most delicious meal to me in the world.

Nowadays, I have ordered a Caesar salad in almost every restaurant I have visited, and added the usual grilled chicken to make it a balanced meal. The other day, though, I found a place that offered a salmon fillet as well as grilled chicken as an option. I had to try it; and bow howdy am I glad I did. The crunchy romain coated with the creamy cheesy dressing, the delicate salmon, juicy and flaking perfectly and the buttery croutons came together in a delectable meal. I knew I had to try it at home.

I had some homemade croutons on hand, so all I needed to do was make the dressing and fry some fish. I opted for salmon steaks; they are a little fattier than a typical fillet and made for an even more decadent meal. What can I say, it was Friday and I wanted to treat myself.

The dressing was a snap to make. The only tricky part is making the mayo and ensuring that it emulsifies; just take the first few steps slowly, and whisk quickly. You can do it by hand, but your arm will thank you if you bust out and electric mixer. I highly recommend trying to use anchovy paste, even if you hate anchovies. It does not taste fishy; it adds a meaty saltiness to the dressing (a taste some chefs refer to as umami). 

I generally like to do research into the dishes I am preparing, even if I think I know quite a lot about them. I had always thought that Caesar salads were Roman; I suppose I heard “Caesar” and my brain immediately assumed that this dish was named after the Emperor and of course, was quite old. I was utterly incorrect. This salad was allegedly invented by restaurant owner Caesar Cardini on July 4th, 1924 in Tijuana, Mexico. He was an Italian immigrant living in San Diego but working in Tijuana to avoid the restrictions of Prohibition. According to legend, the restaurant was slammed and the kitchen was depleted of supplies. To please hungry patrons, Chef Cardini used up what ingredients he had, and thus a classic salad was born. 

1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3/4 cup oil (canola, safflower- something flavorless)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, salt, sugar and mustard powder. Add the two teaspoons of lemon juice and whisk. You should have a deep yellow thick mixture. Drizzle in a little oil a few drops at a time, whisking vigorously (I recommend using an electric hand mixer). The liquid mixture should lighten in color and thicken (which means that the fat has been successfully emulsified!). Continue pouring in the oil slowly while whisking. Once you have poured in about a half cup of oil, stop and add the white vinegar, then pour in the rest of the oil slowly while whisking. You will have about a cup of homemade mayonnaise!

Caesar Dressing:
1 cup homemade or store-bought mayonnaise
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
salt to taste
freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce until you form a paste. Add the mayonnaise and whisk to combine, then fold in the grated cheese. Taste, and add salt as needed and pepper to taste.

Sear Salmon Steaks with Caesar Salad:
2 one pound salmon steaks, 1 inch thick
olive oil
2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
parsley and spring onions to garnish, snipped by kitchen shears
homemade croutons
Parmigiano-Reggiano shards

About 1/2 hour before you intend to cook, take out your fish to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 350 degree F. Toss your room-temperature salmon steaks with salt, pepper and olive oil. Place a large skillet on medium high heat. Fry the salmon steaks for 3 minutes each side, the bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Allow the fish to rest while you compose the salad.

In a large bowl, add the chopped romaine lettuce and 1/2 of the dressing. Toss to coat, adding more dressing if needed. Put the lettuce into 4 salad bowls. With a vegetable peeler, shave off shards of Parmigiano- Reggiano and add those to the dishes, along with homemade croutons. Add 1/2 of a salmon steak, and garnish with parsley and spring onions. Enjoy!


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