This simplified version of Caesar salad consists of romaine hearts, reggiano Parmesan cheese, double smoked bacon, balsamic vinegar, and honey. Traditionally, Caesar salad is made with romaine lettuce and croutons with a dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil, shredded Parmesan cheese, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. In modern version it is often sprinkled with bacon bits. In this simple gourmet recipe, Caesar salad is presented with a flare—Parmesan strips shaped into twills for an elegant touch.
Although the dish looks like something from a fine restaurant, it isn’t difficult to prepare and harkens back to Caesar Cardini’s original 1924 creation while still offering up something new and exciting. To reduce the balsamic vinegar to create the glaze for this dish, simply pour a bottle of the vinegar in a saucepan, bring it to a simmer, and let the amount of liquid in the pan reduce by half. This process intensifies the flavor of the vinegar.
Today, there are many variations of Caesar salad. Some use anchovies instead of Worcestershire sauce to give the dressing more bite while others like to add fresh crushed garlic for a delightful tang. In some recipes, Caesar salad is topped with grilled chicken, seafood, or steak. In some Mexican restaurants, croutons are substituted with tortilla strips and sometimes Cotija cheese is used instead of Parmesan. Tomatoes are also added to the salad.
Other common variations for Caesar salad include a variety of lettuce or other kinds of lettuce like iceberg or butter lettuce. Grilled fish or shellfish can also be added to the salad, as well as capers or olives. Others like to use Romano cheese instead of Parmesan. Caesar salad is often served tableside where the salad is tossed in front of the guests for dramatic flair and entertainment. Showmanship was part of the service.
Trim and wash romaine lettuce leaves. Pat dry with paper towel. On a baking sheet lay out your Parmesan cheese, lengthwise, about 8 inches by 1 inch. Place cheese in 350 degree F oven, for 6 to 7 minutes, until melted and slightly browning.
Remove from oven, let cool for 30 seconds. Using tongs or a palette knife remove the strip of cheese from the baking tray and roll around a mug or glass, putting the seam underneath the weight of the glass, while it rests, making sure it adheres, and let cool.
On the same baking tray, lay out two pieces of double smoked bacon flat. Place another baking tray of equal size on top, and bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Remove from the oven and take the top tray off. Lay bacon out on paper towel and pat dry excess grease. Bacon should be dark, fully cooked and after one minute out of the oven should be crispy.
Whisk together the reduced balsamic vinegar and honey. In a salad bowl toss the lettuce leaves in the salad dressing. Arrange on serving plates and top with Parmesan cheese and bacon strips. Serve.