Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My brush with the Mob- Caesar Salad Recipe

So I'm a Jewish girl from Toronto. What do I know from Italian mobsters? Not much, except for this Caesar Salad recipe.

Here's the story..

My mother was not a cook. She had 2 recipes I remember growing up - Roast Chicken (which is still the recipe I use to this day, handed down to her from her mother) and Caesar Salad dressing from scratch.

Now the Roast Chicken makes sense, we are a Jewish family, my grandmother is pretty "old country" (still serves my grandfather herring on a regular basis kind of thing) and Roast Chicken is a pretty sure bet in a Jewish household. But what was with the Caesar Salad? I didn't ask as a child was just happy to see my mom in the kitchen once in awhile making something..ANYTHING! She just called it "Joey Dogs Caesar Salad" and I guess that satisfied me at the time.

Her dressing was magical. Everyone asked for the recipe that tried it. It was a more complex recipe (or so it seemed when I was 9). Lots of bottles and mixing and whisking.

To this day, even with the knowledge of more sophisticated brands available, I still use Pompeian Red Wine Vinegar, Colemans Dry Mustard and the Kraft green bottle Parmesan cheese, since that is exactly what the original recipe card says to do. I guess I'm afraid to deviate from the recipe...and given the origins of it, my fear may be justified!

But it was, the best ever. It's garlicky and lemony with a hint of anchovies and Parmesan cheese. It takes fresh crisp romaine to a new level. It wasn't until I was much older that I asked her where it came from.

Well, "Joey Dogs" was actually Joe Iannuzzi whom she dated off and on for about 1 year in the early 80's. I recall them going on dates and how he would bring me stupid little toys before they would go out. (in particular, this ridiculous ceramic giraffe) I remember his very "tik" New York accent. Joey Dogs was, it turns out, an FBI Informant for the mob. He was in fact, a mobster himself. While this is crazy to think your nice, Jewish mother was dating a mobster, this thrills the foodie in me, as it makes this recipe far more authentic. It was like I struck recipe gold! An authentic, Italian recipe from a mobster named Joey Dogs who actually gave it first hand to my own mother!

Luckily, my mother and Joey Dogs broke it off, but the recipe remains forever.
"Joey Dogs" Caesar Salad Recipe

1 head fresh crisp Romaine Lettuce, tops trimmed, torn into bite sized pieces
1 cup croutons
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2" long squeeze of Anchovy Paste (or more if you like)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (yes, you can use the green bottle one here but please use the fresh grated at the end)
1/4 c lemon juice
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 egg (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large salad bowl combine garlic, anchovy paste, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk until well combined. Add red wine vinegar until mixed in and slowly add olive oil until fully integrated.
In a separate cup, coddle the egg. (Place the egg in a cup and cover with almost boiling water for 2 minutes)
Remove yolk and mix into dressing until emulsified.

Leave the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, add lettuce on top and do not mix. Add 1/4c freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the croutons and toss when just about to serve. This keeps the lettuce from getting soggy.

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