Vietnamese Caesar Salad with Anchovy Croutons

A classic Caesar salad is all about the dressing: creamy enough to cling to each leaf of lettuce and crunchy crouton, with bursts of flavor from salty anchovies, funky Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Chef Bryant Ng, of Cassia in Los Angeles, brings his own dressing together with some inspired additions: fish sauce, two kinds of anchovies (salt-packed and marinated), and plenty of fresh herbs like cilantro and red shiso. The result: a Caesar with even more umami and texture. Piled high on the plate, with craggy croutons seasoned with anchovy paste; plenty of extra-virgin olive oil; chewy, sweet dried figs; and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, each salad is a summer centerpiece.  

Vietnamese Caesar Salad with Anchovy Croutons
Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
45 mins
Yield:
4

Ingredients

CAESAR DRESSING

  • 15 salt-packed whole anchovies (such as Agostino Recca) or 3 tablespoons store-bought anchovy paste, divided

  • 2 cups mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)

  • 3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 2 3/4 teaspoons grated garlic

  • 3/4 teaspoon fish sauce (such as Red Boat)

  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

CROUTONS

  • 1 (1-pound) rustic bread loaf, crust removed (discard or reserve for another use), loaf torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated garlic

  • Pinch of kosher salt, or to taste

  • Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste

SALAD

  • 2 large heads romaine lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 8 cups)

  • 4 cups torn frisée

  • Pinch of kosher salt, or to taste

  • 2 cups thinly sliced red onion

  • 2 cups loosely packed mixed fresh herbs (such as mint, red shiso, and Vietnamese coriander, or Thai basil, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, and chives)

  • 12 dried figs, stemmed and quartered

  • 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)

  • 24 marinated white anchovy fillets (boquerones)

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Chile Oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Make the Caesar dressing

  1. If using salt-packed anchovies, rinse them under cold water. Place salt-packed anchovies in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and let stand until pliable, about 20 minutes. Using your fingers, start where the body meets the tail, and pry open along the back, lifting out backbone to yield 2 fillets. Rinse fillets again to remove any fine bones; pat dry with paper towels. Finely chop cleaned anchovies. Using flat side of a large knife, drag knife back and forth over chopped anchovies to form a paste, chopping and dragging knife as needed to equal 3 tablespoons anchovy paste. Set paste aside; reserve remaining anchovies for another use.

  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons water, lemon juice, cheese, garlic, fish sauce, pepper, Worcestershire, and 2 tablespoons homemade anchovy paste (or store-bought anchovy paste) until thoroughly blended. Whisk in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to loosen dressing as desired.

Make the croutons

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place torn bread in a large bowl; set aside. Combine oil, garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon anchovy paste in a saucepan; cook over medium, stirring often, until garlic is tender and mixture is very fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Drizzle over bread, and gently toss until oil is absorbed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange croutons in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake on separate oven racks in preheated oven until browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring croutons and rotating baking sheets (top to bottom) halfway through baking time.

Make the salad

  1. Gently toss together romaine, frisée, and 1/2 cup dressing in a large bowl. Reserve remaining dressing for another use. Season with salt. Add onion, herbs, and figs; toss to combine. Divide salad mixture among 4 plates. Top salad evenly with croutons, cheese, and anchovy fillets. Drizzle chile oil and lemon juice evenly over salads.

Make Ahead

Caesar dressing may be prepared up to 3 days ahead; cover and chill until ready to serve. Croutons may be prepared up to 1 day ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Suggested Pairing

Smoky, vivid Pouilly-Fumé.

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