Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hail Caesar

Caesar salad is one of those polarizing dishes that people tend to either adore or detest, depending on one's tolerance for anchovies and garlic. When it is made well, it is creamy tangy tastiness, but if made poorly, or with (gulp) bottled salad dressing, it can quite easily taste like feet. The notion that one can purchase a palatable salad dressing in the supermarket is one of the greatest frauds ever foisted upon the American public. They are awful. And expensive. Please, don't take up valuable real estate on your refrigerator shelf with something that can be made so easily (and so much better) at home! This caesar dressing is made extra simple by using a prepared mayonnaise (purists assemble it with raw egg yolks), and while some have an aversion to the thought of adding anchovies into their salad, I promise it is not as odious as you might imagine. You simply can NOT make a caesar dressing without them- it is essential to the flavor profile, though it blends in so seamlessly you might not ever even know they were there. It is so delicious that tonight, Isabella, in one of my prouder moments, requested so many helpings of of her greens that I felt the need to cut her off, fearing she would make herself sick by over eating "But Mommy, this salad is just so fantastic".... Yes, she really said that, and yes, I was pleased as punch. To put with our salad this evening, I made little ham and cheese croquettes, which are reminiscent of an upscale chicken nugget. I served them with fig jam for dipping, in order to expand my children's palette, but it was all I could do from hiding in the pantry with the bottle of ketchup... what is it about something being deep fried and smothered in Heinz? Childhood habits die hard, which is exactly what I am hoping to avoid with my kids.... I think it's going pretty well so far. ;)

Best Ever Caesar Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 parmigiano reggiano
1 TBS dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, minced
1/8 tsp pepper
juice of 1 lemon
2 TBS water, as needed

-mix it all up! (extra dressing will keep for several days)
-toss with some crisp romaine lettuce and add more cheese, and/or croutons if you like

Ham & Gruyere Croquettes

3 cups cooked white rice (cooled)
1 cup finely chopped ham (nitrate free deli ham works great)
2/3 cup Gruyere cheese, grated (could use cheddar, parmesan, swiss, anything really)
4 eggs, for divided use
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs, preferably homemade*
about 3 cups vegetable oil

-stir together in a large bowl the rice, ham, cheese, pepper, and two of the eggs until well blended
-in a small bowl lightly beat the remianing 2 eggs
-place the breadcrumbs in another small bowl or on a plate
-heat 1 to 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat to 350 degrees
-dampen your hands and,working with about 1/4 cup of the rice mixture at a time, make little compact cakes
-lightly coat in the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then fry a few at a time until golden, about 4 minutes, turning once

*to make homemade dried breadcrumbs, put a few slices of bread in your food processor, pulse until fine, and and then pop in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes (tossing once or twice) until dry and slightly tan in color

serve with fig jam, jalepeno jelly, ketchup, or eat plain!

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