Directions: Coddle the egg: Bring a very fresh egg (in its shell) to room temperature by immersing it in warm water; otherwise, it might crack when coddled. Once the egg has reached room temperature, place it in a mug and pour boiling water around the egg until it is covered. Let stand for exactly 1 minute. (Precision in cooking time is very important in this instance, for should you immerse the egg in boiling water for any longer than a minute, the hot water will overcook the egg.) Drain the hot water, and then immediately run cold water into the mug until the egg can be easily handled. Crack into a small bowl or custard dish and set aside.
Make the dressing: Place the garlic, anchovies, and salt in a blender, and pulse on the lowest setting (i.e., this is the "stir" setting on my particular blender) into a fine, smooth paste. Next, add the pepper, dry mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce, followed by the coddled egg (or mayonnaise, if preferred) until the mixture is thick, approximately 1 minute. (This enables the lemon juice to "cold cook" the eggs.) Incorporate the olive oil in a slow steady stream with one hand while whisking with the other until emulsified. (If the dressing stops gets too thick, add a tablespoonful of water or two and then continue until all the oil is added.) When the dressing is well combined, whisk in 1/4 c. of the Parmesan cheese, & continue to blend.
Make the croutons: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, add bread cubes, enough olive oil to coat but not drench, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and toss together until evenly coated. Spread bread cubes across a 12" x 17" rimmed baking sheet , in a single layer, and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, remove from oven and shake the pan to make sure the croutons toast evenly, return to oven, and cook another 3 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool. Set aside. (Croutons can be made ahead & then store in an airtight container until ready to use.)
Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, toss the romaine with the dressing, 2-3 Tbsp. cheese, and croutons until well-combined. Divide salad into equal portions and serve immediately on chilled plates.** Using a pepper mill, crack fresh pepper over each salad, to taste, and sprinkle additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top, if desired. Serve immediately & enjoy!
Yield: Serves 3-4 as a dinner or lunch salad, or 6-8 servings as a first course/appetizer, that is, if served without any additional ingredients. If you'll be adding another protein source like chicken, shrimp, or salmon, etc., then adjust your salad portions accordingly. (It'll probably make around 4-6 main course servings if you add 4 oz. of protein per salad serving.)
Chef's Notes: Traditional tableside prep directions: To make the salad by hand the traditional/old-fashioned way, you'll need to first add the garlic, anchovies, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt to a large salad bowl, mash them into a fine, smooth paste, and then, with one hand, add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl in the same order as mentioned in the above instructions, while whisking them together with the other hand. Make sure you pour the olive oil with one hand into the bowl in a slow, steady stream, while whisking continuously with the other hand, so that the dressing emulsifies.
If you'd like to expedite the above process, you can also use the following techniques to make the garlic-anchovy paste: Add the garlic, salt, & anchovies into a mortar, and then mash them into a paste using the pestle. Or, alternatively, you can place the garlic and salt on a cutting board and mash the garlic with the salt using the side of a sharp knife until a paste is formed. Then, transfer to a large salad bowl, and
Anchovies as a flavoring agent: It's a commonly acknowledged fact that a lot of people can't stand anchovies, and for many, it's an acquired taste. (I like them a lot, but I realize that I'm in the minority amongst the American populace.) However, there are so few anchovies added to this recipe -- it's a scant amount equal to only about a 1 tsp., that you won't really even detect their presence, but they do provide a unique, extra little something to the taste of the dressing. Regardless, they are really only there to lend a subtle savory taste to the dressing, without overpowering the other flavors of the salad. If you use the correct proportions as listed in this recipe, I swear there won't be any fishy aftertaste. The typically intense flavor that anchovies have if consumed on their own is absent from the Caesar dressing, because the other ingredients -- particularly the lemon juice and garlic -- literally change the chemistry of the dressing and, in the process, alter the flavor of the anchovies. Lemon juice is a known "cleansing" agent, and it'll "cold cook" the anchovies as well as the eggs. Hence, this explains why the strong anchovy flavor is barely detectable when combined with the other dressing ingredients. Another key factor is the quantity used: Just enough anchovy flavor has been added to this recipe to add a bit of savoriness, but not enough to make it fishy-tasting.
Preparing the Parmesan: To shave Parmesan, use either a vegetable peeler or a stainless steel cheese slicer (i.e., the kind with a horizontal rectangular slot in the center of the utensil's spade-shaped "head"). If you'll be making curled, versus rectangular, shavings, a vegetable peeler is the better choice of kitchen implements to use between the two.
Important Health Advisory: *Please use caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, make sure you use only extremely fresh (i.e., a few days old maximum but not over a week), properly refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. Contamination typically occurs on the surface of the egg shell, but there have been cases in which the egg itself has been infected, generally the yolk, but occasionally the white. However, incidence of poisoning is rare. Please note: Raw or lightly cooked eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, those with weak immune systems, or anyone else whose health could be compromised.
**Due to the inclusion of a coddled (partially or lightly cooked) egg in this recipe, the salad dressing must be refrigerated and used the same day it’s made. Coddling causes the yolk to become slightly thickened and warm. This is safer than eating a raw egg, as it will kill some of the bacteria; however as is the case with eating any undercooked food there are risks involved. [According to the USDA, eggs should be cooked until both the white and the yolk are firm, and the water temperature has reached 165-180°F. Coddled eggs will not reach this temperature.]
If you're skittish about using a partially cooked egg, substitute 3-4 Tbsp. mayonnaise. If you'll be using the mayo, be sure to reduce the amount of oil used, using your own best judgment as you add a little bit of oil at a time, testing the consistency after each addition. (I haven't made the dressing using mayo, so that's why I haven't listed a more precise amount.)