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Nancy’s Caesar Salad

Nancy Silverton

Lesson time 24 min

Nancy approaches salads with the same depth and layers as any of her signature dishes. Nancy’s Caesar has evolved in complexity as she continues to layer in unexpected components over the years. From fried parsley and orange zest to shaved cauliflower and bagna cauda croutons, this Chi Spacca creation is bursting with texture, flavor and originality.

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– Should we throw another piece of wood in? – Yeah, one more just right in the middle there. – So, Ryan today, we’re gonna do the Spacca caesar salad. – Absolutely. – We’re gonna make one giant salad, right? – [Ryan] Yeah, yup. – So I’m going to start by toasting the bread for the croutons. I’m gonna toss it in bagna cauda. Now this is the same bagna cauda that I used when I cooked with Deb the other night and we did a bagna cauda, anchovy and garlic, parsley, butter, and olive oil and chili pod. Oh, it’s so good, I would take a warm bath in this any day. I’m gonna make the croutons. – Can I help you? – No, I don’t like help. Here is hopefully Ryan, you put out for me day old bread. – Yes, this is day old bread, yeah. – So just pull out the center and kinda break it up. I really like, as you know, my croutons to be pulled because all the craggled edges toast differently than if I cut my croutons into perfect cubes, they would all be evenly toasted but pulling the bread into kind of a craggly shape, there’s much more interesting texture. I love the look also of croutons like this. I think I started doing this way back in 1989 at Campanile and I’ve never turned back. I think that when I go somewhere and I have breadcrumbs that are square and toasted, I always wonder, did you make your croutons or did you buy your croutons? But if you make croutons like this, you can be sure that they not only look homemade but they also taste homemade. Croutons is a perfect excuse to use bread that’s not perfectly fresh. I mean, you can use fresh bread but why not save that fresh bread for table bread because the crouton does not care if it’s a few days old. At the Osteria, we really take whatever is day, two-day, three-day old and turned it into croutons but what you do want is you want what you call like a hearth baked country type of loaf. You’re not gonna make beautiful torn croutons with a pre sliced sandwich loaf. I think that’s plenty. These are pulled and torn croutons, very irregularly shaped. They’re gonna be toasted at different levels because the bread is essentially in different sizes. This little pointy, thin strand is gonna be a little crunchier than the fattier toasted crouton. When we’re making plain croutons, we just merely toss it in olive oil, season it with salt and toast it but in this case we want anchovy bread crumbs. And this salad was a long time in the making. It’s started out with the recipe that I love just for salad dressing and that’s how my caesar salad was served. As I continued to develop and continue to learn the importance of layering flavors into a salad, I then decided to toss my bread in bagna cauda because anchovies are going in the dressing itself. – And you have bagna cauda on the restaurant, probably too. – I had bagna cauda at the restaurant but I’m an anchovy lover, I’m sure you know by now. – More of anchovy salad. – And it’s in anchovy salad and every time you bite into one of these croutons, you have the pleasure of an anchovy flavor. Do you have a sheet pan? And I’m not salting these like I ordinarily would do just with olive oil because these are pre-salted by anchovies. – There’s quite a bit of oil on there. – This salad, no matter what, it’s not gonna be for the non anchovy. – ‘Cause there’s anchovy in every part of it. There’s anchovy in the salad. – In the dressing you mean? We add some anchovy filets into the salad and then the croutons. I’m just gonna spoon a little of the anchovy that sinks to the bottom, over the croutons and then we’re gonna save the remainder, in our case for tomorrow’s breadcrumbs. In the case of someone who does it at home and it’s not gonna be making anchovy croutons the next day, I find this delicious with fish on the side or spooned over potatoes like I did and I also love raw vegetables that I dip in a warm anchovy bath. – That’s how I always end it. I’mma throw this in the oven. – Throw it in the oven after I take a bite. – How’s it taste? – Nice and anchovy. Alright, Ryan, now we’re gonna do the dressing. We’re making a caesar dressing, which is traditionally a thicker dressing that’s emulsified. – I need an egg. – Got it. – Worcestershire, tabasco. – Got it. – Lime juice. – Well, I have limes. – Garlic. – Peeled garlic cloves. – Red wine vinegar, black pepper, the anchovies. The Parmesan cheese and the olive oil. – Now this is already in the bottle, you mixed two– – Canola and olive oil. – So half neutral half extra Virgin olive oil. – Yes, extra Virgin olive oil, half neutral. – There you go. – Perfect. – Food processor. Now this dressing of course can be made in a mortar and pestle because we are starting with eggs and we are going to add some seasonings but we’re gonna add a dressing that’s a thickened dressing and we’re gonna slowly add oil to it. They make a lot of the caesar dressing, it’s a very popular salad here and so it saves time and I don’t really think that the dressing suffers by being made in a food processor. I still am a firm believer that pesto does suffer by being made in a food processor. Caesar salad, it doesn’t. So go ahead, use your food processor. – So now, I will separate the egg. – So this is a dressing that’s thick, it’s a dressing that’s emulsified as opposed to a vinegarette that does not have an egg in it. You’re gonna put the garlic in now. When I make a caesar dressing at home or when I make a mayonnaise at home, because basically caesar dressing is a mayonnaise because it’s a dressing that is thickened with egg yolk. I either make it in a mortar and pestle or a bowl with a whisk but I do it by hand, I don’t do it in a machine. You have your egg yolks and your garlic. What else are you gonna add? – The anchovy. Black pepper. – A touch of salt because we know that it’s salted with all those anchovies and with the Worcestershire, Worcestershire and anchovies has oils. – Not as part of the anchovies. – How many anchovies are you adding? – 10. – Wow. That’s my recipe and I don’t even remember it. So 10 anchovies, I added some pepper but I have a feeling I’m gonna add more. I really love a lot of pepper in my caesar dressing. I like to be able to control how thick the emulsification is so I add my liquids in batches. So I’m just gonna combine them altogether. Will you give me the lime juice? My red wine vinegar, my hot pepper sauce. How much do I want? – Just a few splashes. – A few splashes. That’s a few, how about my Worcestershire? – Same thing, a few splashes. – Just a few splashes. – Do you want me squeeze the lime or do you want to go? – Go ahead, I squeeze always cut side up so that I don’t lose the seeds into what I’m making. And we’ll keep some for seasoning at the end, along with the pepper, I’ll leave it out so I remember it. Everything else is good. All right, I’m gonna be the oil adder. I’m gonna add this slowly. Now, I can’t see, by the way. Can you tell me how we’re doing? Am I adding it too… – You’re doing good, you’re doing well. – Is it getting thicker yet? – Yeah it is, keep going on. – Can I go faster? – Go a little faster. – Yeah, so slow at the beginning, a bit faster. Do I have enough oil in here? – Keep going, you’re good. – Am I thick? – Yep, beautiful. – Well, it needs the rest of the vinegar. – It needs acid, a form of vinegar, and lime juice and then hot sauce and the Worcestershire – Okay but we’ve got to, let me do it slowly. Turn it on. Stop. – And then we need to add… and consider that this will get quite a bit thicker when the cheese gets added to it. How is it? That’s good. – Needs more pepper. It actually needs more salt. – Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese though. – And this is Parmesan Reggiano. – Just Parmigiana Reggiano. – And I’m not adding all this. – No, only about a couple. – Try that, more pepper sauce definitely. ‘Cause remember we’re finishing the salad with orange zest. – I think a little bit of pepper sauce. I think a little bit Worcestershire sauce or lime juice, more cheese. – More cheese and more salt. All right, give it a try. – More salt, I think lime juice too, personally. – It’s good, right? – That tastes really good. Okay, let’s transfer it to a bowl, here you go. This seems like a good texture, right? – Oh, it’s perfect. That’s great. – Yeah. – Oh, the croutons, are they done? – Yep, they’re in the oven, let’s grab ’em right now. – Yeah, it’s been about 10 minutes. They look dark oh, they look great. They always look darker than croutons that are just tossed in olive oil because of the anchovy, but they’re not burnt, they’re brown, beautiful. – That’s beautiful. – I’m gonna clean up. Let’s fry parsley. Okay, I’ll pick the parsley. – You’ll pick the parsley? You’ve got the oil on? – Oil’s hot and ready. What are you frying it in? – It’s canola oil. – Okay, I love to have just a little bit of the stem on there, so don’t just give it a bad haircut by. I don’t know what it is when people pick sage and parsley, if they don’t leave a little bit of the stem on, it just looks so naked to me so just a little bit of the stem. So this is gonna be one of the few times that I’m gonna be eating the salad that I don’t complain because I actually got to make the dressing. You know how I was saying that as I aged, I got wiser. The complexity of my caesar salad also evolved. So my first caesar salad didn’t even have croutons. I don’t think, it was just the dressing and romaine lettuce, then I added croutons, while later I tossed my croutons in anchovy. Then after eating a cesar-type salad that April Bloomfield served at the Breslin Restaurant in New York where it was garnished with fried parsley, I then thought that would be a great addition to mine as well. Let’s fry this parsley now. So you’ve got the neutral oil, I’ve got the salt to season the parsley. You’ve got a paper towel to drain the parsley. I’m gonna add this, stand back. Parsley has a lot of water. Should I do it in one batch? – No, do it in half a batch, I’m scared. – No, can I do all this? – Yes, you can do all of that. – But stand back, there’s so much water in parsley that it’s going to blow up. – There you go Ryan, she’s all yours. But look it, if you’re doing this at home, it might be easier to do it in a slightly smaller pan and do it in two batches but you’re a professional. – I hope so. – So you’re frying it just until the oil kind of quiets down and then you can see that it’s done, otherwise you’re gonna have really blackened parsley rather than green. So let it sit for a second so you can listen to it. See how much more quiet it is. I say, it’s done, yeah. – Drain it to paper towel. – I’m gonna come on the other side of you and season it while it’s hot. – Here’s got this. – I’m just seasoning this with kosher salt. I’ve taught in all of the lessons that I’ve done the importance of seasoning each layer. – And immediately as it comes out of the fire too. – We’re now gonna shave some cauliflower. I love the cauliflower, it adds another crunch without interacting too much with another flavor. I find it best to cut the cauliflower into quarters and just use a wedge of the cauliflower. Let’s see, oh yeah. Now I love when it stays together like this and I’m not gonna dress the cauliflower, I’m gonna layer in it because our escarole leaves are gonna be dressed well enough that if we dress the cauliflower, not only would it fall apart, but I think everything would be just too overly dressed. So I’m just separating these out so I can get the nice slats. And this is really as thinly as we can slice it with it still having texture and staying together. With all the leftover bits, we just throw them in the staff salad, at home, put them in a Ziploc bag, throw ’em into tomorrow’s vegetable salad. When I’m cooking with someone that’s dirty, I don’t mince words, I just say clean up the mess. All right, for later. – But also that being said, I always like to use the references. Julia Child was a very messy cook and if you watch those shows, they’re hilarious. She was so messy. – Alright, salad time. I’ve got a bowl, you’ve got the escarole. Look at how beautiful the escarole is. This is a caesar salad still with a few little changes and the last change being that we’re gonna use escarole as opposed to romaine leaves. I love escarole. For me, it’s one of the most recent leafy greens that I’ve added to my yes list. – Can you get me a lemon? – Yup, a lemon. I got my pepper mill, what else do we need? – We need, dressing we’ve got, escarole we’ve got cauliflower we’ve got, Parmesan cheese here, salt. – Wait, do we have our orange? – Nope, thank you. – To finish it. Thank you, orange. We gotta taste the salad dressing and the only way to really taste how good it is or if it needs to be re-seasoned is to taste it with the lettuce that you’re gonna be dressing it with. – I like that, it’s great. – Yeah, ’cause we’re adding more cheese and orange and parsley and all that. Okay, let’s go. – Okay, so first escarole. – Yeah, here’s all. – And then a little salt. – To season it because we always season every layer, a little bit of lemon juice. In this case, I’m going back to my American roots and using lemon, I just think the lime will be too strong so I’m just gonna use a little bit of lemon. That’s a little bit just to coat it, not too much lemon. – Yeah, just a little bit to season the leaves, waken them up a little. Dressing, now I always dress around the edge of the salad. Important that we don’t over or under dress. We all know it’s easier to add more than take away. – This is gonna be good, I think. – Do you think that’s a good amount? – Yeah, let’s try, I think it will be good. – Okay, now with a sturdy lettuce or a sturdy leaf such as escarole, you really wanna massage that dressing into the nicks and crannies of the natural shape of the leaf. A more fragile lettuce like butter lettuce or rucola you have to be very careful in the way it’s handled because it’ll just fall apart. – Yeah, so do you want me to build or you’re gonna build? – You do the lettuce and I do the in between. – So one thing is Nancy will never do what I call just a scoop and drop. You’ll always place the lettuces. You never just pick them up and drop them. And as you can see layers again, Parmesan cheese. – A little bit of cauliflower. Don’t forget the croutons. – I’m not forgetting the croutons. – Croutons be layered in because they also absorb some of the dressing from the lettuces themselves so they must be layered. – Now in the case of the type of anchovies that I use for the caesar salad, I do prefer my anchovy to be one that is packed in oil. My favorite ones are ones that come from Chitarra, which is on the Amalfi coast in Italy. I also love the anchovies from Sicily and the anchovies from the Cantabrian coast in Spain. Excellent ones, I prefer them to ones that are packed in salt. Those tend to be just too intense. Cheese, and with this layering of the salad, I kind of talk about building three or four salads on top of each other. So each layer is its own salad, which is a nice way of looking at how to build this salad. A little anchovy. I’m gonna tuck a little cauliflower in there, a little bit of anchovy in there so that you see it. Cheese. I get some of my parsley. – This is the fun part. – And I put the parsley just on top because this parsley will crumble and you’ll lose all of the beautiful green, a little cracked black pepper. And then this is a touch that I borrowed from I don’t know where, but I had a salad that was finished with just a little bit of orange rind on top and what it brought to the salad was just a freshness that I just never tasted anything like it before. And now finally, a caesar salad at Spacca my way.

About the Instructor

James Beard Award-winning chef, best-selling cookbook author, and the restaurateur behind Michelin-starred Mozza, Nancy Silverton takes viewers on a journey from her home in Panicale, Italy, to her home in Los Angeles. Viewers learn a range of Nancy’s renowned dishes, including her signature Caesar Salad, Chi Spacca Pepper Steak, 10+ vegetarian dishes, Mom’s Apple Pie, and more.

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