Sum of the Parts
A classic Caesar is broken down into bare ingredients and assembled by the diner.
"Deconstruct" isn't a word you ordinarily associate with restaurant chefs. After all, they are in the business of putting things together rather than taking them apart. But Rachel Klein, chef at the new Om Restaurant and Lounge in Harvard Square, has deconstructed the classic Caesar. All the traditional ingredients - romaine hearts dressed in lemon, oil, egg yolk, anchovy, garlic, and Parmesan - are present, but the chef lays the tender leaves on a rectangular plate side by side with slender asparagus and tiny fingerling potatoes (both new to Caesar), shaved Parmesan, and white anchovies deep-fried into golden curls. The crowning touch: a soft-cooked egg nestled on a metal ring and offered with a little spoon. The diner's job is to toss the ingredients. "When you mix it all together," says Klein, "you have something special." It's a world away from the theatrical Caesar tossed tableside - but no less exciting. At home, we pared down Klein's stunning presentation so that it is less daunting to prepare but just as dramatic to present.
1 pound haricots verts or slender green beans
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 cup shaved Parmesan slivers
1 recipe eggless Caesar dressing (see below)
Fill a saucepan fitted with a steamer insert with several inches of water. Bring to a boil, add the green beans, cover, and steam for 4 minutes or until the beans are tender but still have some bite. Fill a bowl with cold water. Use tongs to transfer the beans to the cold water.
After the beans cool, arrange them in the center of each of 4 plates. Remove the outside romaine leaves. Set 5 of the paler inside leaves on each plate, then some Parmesan slivers. Set the plates aside.
Remove the steamer from the saucepan. Tip out the water and refill the pan with cold water. Bring to a boil. With a straight pin, prick a hole in the rounded end of each egg. Using a slotted spoon, lower the eggs into the boiling water, let the water return to a low boil, and cook the eggs for exactly 5 minutes. Fill another bowl with cold water.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the shell from the rounded end of each egg. Set the eggs in egg cups or other holders and place them on the plate with the lettuce. Serve with eggless Caesar dressing.
EGGLESS CAESAR DRESSING MAKES ABOUT 3/4 CUP
1 clove garlic, halved
6 anchovy fillets, cut up
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a food processor, work the garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth.
With the motor running, add the oil to the mixturein a thin steady stream until the dressing is smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Just before serving, stir in the Parmesan cheese.
SHRIMP AND AVOCADO TOSSED CAESAR
You can also make this dish with crabmeat or cooked salmon or tuna instead of shrimp. If you prefer, you can eliminate the beer, but we find it adds an interesting flavor to the boiled shrimp.
1 can light beer
1 1/2 pounds extra large or large shrimp, peeled Salt and pepper, to taste
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 head red leaf lettuce, cored and torn into small pieces
1 recipe eggless Caesar dressing (see left)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beer and let the water return to a boil.
Add the shrimp and a pinch of salt. Cook the shrimp until the water returns to a boil or until the shrimp turn bright pink and are firm to the touch. Drain them into a colander.
When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, halve them on a diagonal; set aside.
Halve the avocado lengthwise. Remove the pit. Use a spoon about the size of the avocado halves to scoop out the flesh in one piece. Cut the halves in half again. Slice the wedges thickly crosswise and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice.
In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, onion, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce. Add the shrimp. Lift the avocado from the bowl and discard the lemon juice. Add the avocado to the salad with plenty of salt and pepper.
Spoon half of the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Add the remaining dressing to taste. Serve at once.