Wednesday, August 29, 2007
In Defense of Caesar Salads
I read this Michael Ruhlman post a few weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it a bit. I agree with much of what he says - that the ubiquitous chicken Caesar is something that is expected to be on a menu, not something that a chef would necessarily choose to serve. I mean, what does it say about the American palate (or psyche, for that matter) that people order "healthy" by ordering the least nutritious green covered in basically garlic-flavored mayo?
But I also agree with Ruhlman that restaurants should be taking the Caesar, obviously popular, and playing with the dish. My favortie Caesar in Boston is at, of all places, a small Tex-Mex chain.
The Border Cafe has branches in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia (although for years, I thought the one in Harvard Square was one-of-a-kind). It's been one of my favorite restaurants since my brother and his now-wife took me out for my birthday during middle school. The margaritas and chips saved my sanity during stressful times in college. For years, I would only order the quesadilla or the burros, both basically melty cheese wrapped in a tortilla (which I would push aside in favor of more chips). I don't know when I finally tried the Border's Caesar, but I am now unable to order anything else when I go.
Yes, it still uses Romaine lettuce, virtually devoid of nutrients. Yes, the dressing is sometimes globbed on. And yes, you can order it plain or with grilled chicken. But the dressing has more flavor than just garlic - there's a brightness from lemon that adds a nice amount of zing to the dressing. You can also top the salad with blackened chicken, blackened salmon, or my personal favorite (and pictured above) spicy, sauteed shrimp and crawfish.
I mean, how often do you think to yourself "Today I'm going to have a salad with creole seafood on top!"?
OK, now I'm making myself drool...