Friday, June 26, 2009

Caesar Salad with Roquefort Dressing and Crispy Walnuts

In 1995, when I trotted off to NYU, I was housed in a dorm that overlooked Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, NYC. I was too thrilled to complain about being stuffed in an over-sized closet with 3 other guys. The two small rooms were connected by a tiny bathroom where I patiently sat on a folding chair, hunched over the toilet seat, stirring ramen noodles on a portable electric burner. That was the closest I ever came to "cooking" for my first year on my own. Sophomore year, I struck gold in the housing lottery, scoring a large room with a kitchenette. I also discovered Dean and DeLuca, a "fancy grocery store" in Soho that sold sophisticated ingredients at over-sophisticated prices. The first recipe I made on my own was from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook, written by David Rosengarten with Joel Dean and Giorgio DeLuca. I had NOTHING in my kitchen, so I spent a small fortune on ingredients and cooking utensils. I stole plates, salt and pepper from the dining hall.

--2 cups Walnut Halves
--3/4 cup Confectioners' Sugar
--Vegetable Oil for frying
--1/2 tsp Salt
--Pinch Cayenne Pepper
--4 Flat Anchovy Fillets, rinsed and drained (or soaked in Milk to draw out the saltiness), then minced
--4 cloves Garlic, peeled
--2 tsp Sherry Vinegar
--2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
--1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
--1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
--1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
--4 heads Romaine Lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
--1/2 cup Roquefort Cheese, crumbled

Simmer the walnuts in boiling water for 5 minutes until slightly softened. Drain and dry completely, then mix with the sugar. In a heavy kettle, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Deep fry the walnuts in batches for about 1 or 2 minutes until golden brown, and drain on paper towel. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mash the anchovies with the garlic to form a paste. Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and dried mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a stream, whisking until dressing is emulsified.

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing to coat, then add the Roquefort cheese and crispy walnuts.


clairz said...

Given the size of NYC kitchens, I've always thought that it would take a determined cook to put together a meal in such cramped surroundings. The mental picture of you, hunched over the toilet seat cooking ramen noodles, is one that (I'm afraid) is destined to stay with me forever.

Thank you for such a clear snapshot of dorm life!

BdVdB said...

I was determined to cook! And obsessively clean!