The BEST Caesar Salad Comes with Anchovies

I feel like shit. And I love anchovies.

A little explanation … we are redoing our kitchen and have had to eat out for days … and my body, although I love eating in restaurants, my body is craving home cooking … blah, blah, blah. As for the anchovies, there’s not much to say other than, “I love anchovies.” Love a spicy puttanesca sauce generously spooned over fresh pasta. Love a margherita pizza strewn with a few of the tiny, salty fillets. Love a slice of crisp bruschetta topped with whipped cream cheese and a solitary fried anchovy … and love LOVE ❤❤❤ Caesar salad with anchovies in the dressing (as they should be) and perched oh so perfectly on top of crisp romaine lettuce and shaved Parmesan.

So imagine my dismay when last night I ordered a Caesar salad—from a restaurant that will go unnamed because—and it didn’t have anchovies … not on the top, not on the side, not in the dressing. And although it was a fine salad, it was not a Caesar salad. It had tomatoes and cabbage and a bunch of other things but no Parmesan. And no anchovies. Not a one.

I mean listen, I get it, restaurants, chefs … they’re like writers and sometimes take liberties when creating their “stories” or their “dishes.” But I think Caesar salads should be, well, Caesar salads. And they should be loaded with the teeny, tiny fish that provide a whopping amount of calcium, iron, zinc and protein. And they taste damn good too.

Question … do you like anchovies in your Caesar? Do you expect them in your salad? And for that matter, should they really even be there in the first place?

In the mid-1940s, Hearst’s New York Evening Journal’s Dorothy Kilgallen wrote the following in her “Voice of Broadway” column: The big food rage in Hollywood—the Caesar salad—will be introduced to New Yorkers by Gilmore’s Steak House. It’s an intricate concoction that takes ages to prepare and contains (zowie!) lots of garlic, raw or slightly coddled eggs, croutons, romaine, anchovies, parmeasan [sic] cheese, olive oil, vinegar and plenty of black pepper.

Caesar Salad from Caesar Hotel, Tijuana, Mexico circa 2018 credit Luis Grijalva

The original Caesar salad contained coddled eggs served on whole lettuce leaves, designed to be picked up by the stem and eaten with fingers

But, while the salad was “the big food rage” in Hollywood way back when, it wasn’t a famous Hollywood chef who invented the dish. The origins of the salad supposedly lie in a concoction created by an Italian immigrant, Caesar Cardini. Living in Mexico at the time, Cardini is said to have invented the salad while working at the restaurant located in the Hotel Caesar. His version, however, did not contain anchovies … but today, the Cardini’s famed original Caesar dressing does. How they sneaked in there, I have yet to figure out but I for one am sure glad they did.

So I ask again … do you like anchovies in your Caesar? Do you expect them in your salad? And for that matter, should they really even be there in the first place?

My Favorite Caesar Salad Dressing (other than Cardini’s)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup light mayonnaise
½ cup grated Parmesan split in two (the better the Parmesan, the better the dressing)
½ tsp ground pepper
1 can anchovies
¼ cup shaved Parmesan

Mix ingredients in a food processor, using 1/2 of the Parmesan. Stir in remaining grated Parmesan. To serve, place long romaine leaves on a dish, spoon dressing over lettuce and top with shaved Parmesan and a generous number of anchovies. Enjoy!

Coming up NEXT on the blog … Caribbean seafood and a trip to the Dominican Republic. Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler

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DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then.  Xoxox