never say never: the case of creamy caesar.

I was never a fan of creamy Caesar salads, and I suspect my disdain was grounded in encounters with mediocre-at-best bottled versions. For longer than I can remember, the boy and I have been quite happy making our own vinaigrettey rendition and I think we would’ve happily continued to do so had it not been for Sunday. Which was the boy’s first day off since starting  his month long stint in Halifax (at the HSOW) as Hoffmann in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (an opera featuring drunkenness, death, evil geniuses and love. Shameless plug Sidenote: his performance dates are August 6 (7:30PM) and August 13 (2PM). Concept: Victorian steampunk. The show’s going to be awesome.)

I’d like to think I’m a pretty laid back traveller (i.e. none of the here’re-46-must-sees-I’m-cramming-into-3-days silliness), but there was one thing I’d been craving since purchasing my plane ticket: fresh Atlantic seafood. I was stoked when the boy revealed that D, a fellow HSOW colleague and friend was a chef in his pre-singing days. Who’d travelled from Ontario with his knives. Another friend/colleague was staying at a relative’s empty house during HSOW and we quickly found out M’s accommodations included a Very Large Kitchen. Clearly we needed to have a delicious homecooked seafood-full meal.

After spending a lovely afternoon at Conrad’s Beach (a beautiful local secret close to Lawrencetown), we picked up some groceries and cooked up a storm. Part of the fun and frustration of working in a stranger’s kitchen is getting to know a new space, and improvising with unfamiliar equipment. Crossing my fingers for dijon (in stead of the plain yellow stuff), I realised that my assumption of not having to buy mustard was unwarranted. There goes my emulsifier to pull together the Caesar dressing.

M: thanks for sharing one of your favourite spots with us!

But not all is lost as the boy suggested throwing an egg yolk in the mixture. Plus that’s the way D makes his Caesar dressings, and this was a man whose food knowledge I trusted. I’d already been using the immersion blender to whiz together the ingredients (the parmesan was only coarsely shredded; I missed my rasp dearly and was making do with an old box grater), and blending in the egg instantly thickened the dressing into what was essentially an aioli with parm and anchovies. Holy toledo, batman! This stuff was good.  We’ll certainly be making more of the creamy version in the future. Hooray for happy accidents!

We’ve been vamping on this recipe for years and even if you’re not a fish fan, don’t let the anchovies scare you. They add a savoury depth that makes the dressing superlative; even our non seafood eating friends have been pleasantly surprised by its deliciousness. I think our proportions are closer to doubling the garlic and anchovies, though it’s been ages since we’ve actually measured anything. This is easy peasy, delicious, and a great starting point if you’re attempting Caesar salad for the first time: have fun playing until it suits your palate!

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
8 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil

It was a lovely start to an all around awesome evening. D whipped up a delicious bean dish, along with quite frankly the best seafood chowder I’d had, ever. The mussels and lobster were cooked in a liquid that became the base to the soup (along with cream and white wine, of course); the fish (salmon, tilapia) and scallops were poached to perfection at the end. We lounged around drinking wine and listening to choral music while watching the sunset over the neighbourhood (wrap around windows are wonderful are to die for). When our stomachs could handle a bit more, we finished off the evening with the boy’s lemon curd (we have no problems breaking the mould of what can and cannot be stand alone desserts).

Even during holiday famjams, I’m fairly cognizant of my stomach’s limits and rarely actually need my fat pants. For this meal, I completely ignored that feeling-of-being-full, and the discomfort was well worth it. Cheers to great food and friends!

Postscript: apologies for my brief disappearance but I promise there are at least a few entries on the backburner right now. Including posts featuring homemade Italian sausage,  fedoras & pho, and fun ice cream flavours (like sweet potato and black sesame). Stay tuned.

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