Tijuana's Caesar Salad: It's show time!

A "Caesoned" professional shows how Caesar’s Salad happens, from coddling the egg to squishing the anchovies

Q: What’s the longest-running argument in the cooking world?

A: Who invented the Caesar salad?

Was it César Cardini, who it’s named after? Alexander, his brother? Livio Santini, his chef? Beatriz Santini, Livio's mom? A dozen other chefs around LA and New York?

Q: And how do you actually make an authentic Caesar salad anyways?

A: I’m here at Caesar’s Restaurant (Avenida Revolución #8190, between 4th and 5th Streets, Zona Centro, Tijuana, 011.52.664-685-1927)...

...to get the answers to both questions.

But honestly, mainly how to make the danged thing, and then eat it.

I luck out. Tonight – and it’s late, heading towards 11:00 p.m. – I run across Efrain Montoya Gaxiola, maybe the waiter with the most experience in making the world’s most famous salad, tableside for all to see.

Efrain, who has been making it for 5 of the salad's 85-year life-span, rolls up with his trolley, fresh from making it at another table.

On top, oils, eggs, beautiful wooden spatulas, and the big wooden bowl that’s the centerpiece of the tableside preparation.

“So just watch,” he says. “I’ll go slowly.”

“First, you must have romaine lettuce,” he says, “chilled. Now put in some mustard…

…grind in some pepper…

…add some crushed anchovies and garlic, plus Worcestershire sauce, and grate in some parmesan. Now you break the egg. It’s been coddled – boiled for one minute - so it’s a little firmer. Strain out the white, drop the yolk in…

…mix it all around…

…and keep whisking it with these paddles while you start pouring in the virgin olive oil…

…and keep right on pouring…

…till it’s like a paste…

…then add the romaine leaves…

…roll them in the mixture…

…lay them out on the plate…

…add more parmesan…

...drop it from a great height...

…add a crouton and voilà!”

By the way, it’s delicious. Somehow it feels like a meal. And best, all of this costs $7.50.

But you’ve gotta ask: how come these seven romaine lettuce leaves became the world’s most famous salad? And we've still gotta know: who invented it?

(Clue: Count César out, Efrain says. Another clue: Don't count Livio out.)

More in upcoming Tin Fork.

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