Oh my goodness, am I ever a Caesar salad girl.  I order a Caesar salad pretty much every time I am out at a restaurant.  Even if it doesn’t particularly go with the entree I ordered, I just can’t resist it!  Having tried so many different versions, I realize that people make this dish thousands of different ways…but I’m not picky, I have yet to meet a version that I don’t like.  Some dressings are creamier, some are more oily, but they are all delicious in my book.  I have only tried making it at home once before and was not thrilled with the dressing, but this version is definitely a winner!  

Many of the creamier Caesar dressings are achieved by the addition of raw egg, and while I don’t mind eating it in a restaurant occasionally, I’m not about to make (and store) that at home.  This particular dressing is definitely more on the oily side of the spectrum, making it nice and light.  I think you could easily adjust the ingredients in this dressing (a little more or less of particular ingredients) to get the exact flavor you prefer.  I think next time I make this I will add a bit more Parmesan and garlic, but this is definitely an excellent starting point.  I’m ecstatic to finally be able to make my favorite salad at home!  I can’t wait to try it topped with some grilled chicken, shrimp or salmon.  YUM!

One word on the croutons – I think it is essential that you use good, crusty, bubbly French bread.  On my first attempt with this recipe I used bread labeled as “soft French bread” from the store.  While the bread tasted great, it made croutons that were too crumbly and just not right at all.  I tried again with classic French bread and the results were much, much better. 

Caesar Salad
For the dressing:
4 canned anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard (whole grain or creamy)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the croutons:
1 baguette French bread
1/4 cup olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
Kosher salt

For the salad:
Romaine lettuce, washed and dried

For garnish: 
Parmesan cheese

To make the dressing, combine the anchovy fillets, garlic, Dijon, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse, or blend on low speed for several seconds, until well-combined.  Scrape down the sides.  With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, and process again to thoroughly combine.   Add a dash of kosher salt and black pepper.  Add the Parmesan cheese.  Pulse once more until well combined.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to mingle.

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Cut the French bread into 1-inch cubes.  Spread the cubes of bread on a baking sheet.  Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Crush the whole cloves of garlic and add them to the oil.  Stir them around for about 5 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor.  Remove from the heat and discard the garlic cloves.  Drizzle the oil over the bread cubes.  Toss lightly with your hands to help coat the bread with the oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally (I stir every 15 minutes).  After the croutons have baked for 1 hour, turn the heat up to 400 degrees F.  Bake the croutons at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes, just until they have been lightly browned.  (Watch them carefully or they will burn!)  Allow the croutons to cool.

To make the salad, cut or tear the romaine lettuce into pieces.  Add the lettuce to a salad bowl.  Start by topping the lettuce with a couple of tablespoons of the Caesar dressing.  Toss well to coat, and add more as needed.  Transfer the lettuce to serving bowls and top with croutons.  Top with Parmesan cheese (either shaved with a vegetable peeler, or grated).  

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman