Caesar salad (original version)

Serves 4-6, based on Caesar’s 1925 recipe from his restaurant in Tijuana. This version was written by his daughter.

2 large crisp heads romaine lettuce
About 3/4 C best-quality olive oil
2 C croutons
1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 C (1 oz) genuine imported real Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Peppercorns in a grinder
Worcestershire sauce

The romaine: You want 6 to 8 whole unblemished leaves of romaine, between 3 and 7 inches long, per person. Strip the leaves carefully from the stalks. Wash them gently, to keep them from breaking, shake dry, and roll loosely in clean towels. Refrigerate until serving time.

The croutons: Cut homemade type unsweetened white bread into half-inch dice and dry it out in the oven, basting them as they brown with olive oil in which you have steeped fresh crushed garlic for several days.

(Alternatively, puree 2 cloves of garlic into a small heavy bowl and mash to a smooth paste with a pestle or spoon, adding 1/4 t salt and dribbling in 3 T of the oil. Strain into a medium-sized frying pan and heat to just warm, add plain croutons, toss for about a minute over moderate heat, and turn into a nice serving bowl.)

Other preliminaries: Shortly before serving, squeeze lemon into a small pitcher, boil the eggs exactly 1 minute, grate the cheese into a nice little bowl, and arrange all of these on a tray along with the rest of the olive oil, the croutons, pepper grinder, salt, and Worcestershire. Have large dinner plates chilled, arrange the romaine in the largest salad bowl you can find, and you are ready to go.

Mixing the salad: Prepare to use large rather slow and dramatic gestures for everything you do, as though you were Caesar himself. First pour 4 tablespoons of oil over the romaine and give the leaves 2 rolling tosses — hold salad fork in one hand, spoon in the other, and scoop under the leaves at each side of the bowl, bringing the implements around the edge to meet each other opposite you, then scoop them up toward you in a slow roll, bringing the salad leaves over upon themselves like a large wave breaking toward you; this is to prevent them from bruising as you season them. Sprinkle on 1/4 t of salt, 8 grinds pepper, 2 more spoonfuls of oil, and give another toss. Pour on the lemon juice, 6 drops of Worcestershire, and break in the eggs. Toss twice, sprinkle on the cheese. Toss once, then sprinkle on the croutons and give 2 final tosses.

Serving: Arrange the salad rapidly but stylishly leaf by leaf on each large plate, stems facing outward, and a sprinkling of croutons at the side. Guests may eat the salad with their fingers, in the approved and original Caesar manner, or may use knives and forks — which they will need anyway for the croutons.

Note from Meps: I always leave the eggs out, since you can’t trust a raw egg these days. But if you want a really authentic texture, I’ve heard that “Eggbeaters” is an OK and safe substitute.