March 7, 2011

caesar salad woes

The first thing I tried to make in salad station was caesar salad. Which in hind sight is one of those deceptively simple American staples that one should not attempt because if one f's up it's shame-inducing AND readily noticeable.

In my attempt it was not so much the salad that I f'ed up but the dressing I had to make from scratch. It's a good thing to be able to make something that almost everyone else buys ready-made from the store, but in this case, well let's just say that I wish I had bought it from the store.

Making a dressing from scratch typically involves an emulsifying process - that is, since oil and vinegar are two incompatible substances, you have to mix them together with an emulsifying agent or else they will separate soon after you stop actively mixing them. As I've blogged previously, the lecithin in egg whites is an emulsifier (for example, in mayonnaise). For caesar dressing though it's the mustard (explanation here).

But that wasn't the part I got wrong. I just didn't know that in emulsions you're supposed to add the oil last, and slowly, and to a blender already spinning.

caesar dressing emulsion
I poured some oil in before I started the blender. Then I added the remainder as the blades were spinning, not knowing that it was already too late. Chef came to see my dressing and informed me that it was broken. (The oil was oozing away from the rest of the ingredients, yielding a liquidy mixture and not the creaminess I was hoping for.)

To add insult to injury I tried fixing the dressing, to no avail, wasting a whole two hours on the process. Needless to say I thought I would never amount to anything in the culinary world, much less become the sauce-making goddess I had intended on becoming. All was lost.

I countered my woes by making some bomb croutons (by cutting bread into cubes, tossing it in some oil and spices and then baking until crispy). Glad I didn't f that up. Then I managed to arrange the salad in an aesthetically-pleasing manner.

caesar salad
What can I say, making things pretty really does go a long way (see previous post for my pretty pictures comment, haha)!

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