While putting myself through college, I worked as a waitress in a fine seafood restaurant. So when I say “restaurant quality” I mean it literally: I learned the basics of how to make a Caesar from scratch there. Every once in a while the “Dessert Girl” for the night wouldn’t show up. (Desert Girls were usually 16-17 year olds who are too young to waitress with alcohol yet.) So the manager would beg and plead for one of us to do her job: roll out the little dessert cart and put on a little food show next to the diner’s table. Cherries Jubilee… Bananas Foster… all kinds of Crepes… and Caesar Salad. Well, all of these things rank RIGHT up there on my Top Food Hits, so I volunteered to learn how to make these delectable (and many flaming!) treats. Besides, it was putting on a show – and I’m always up for that! So while I didn’t give up my waitressing shifts (which made better tips), I often volunteered to get my flame on as Dessert Girl for a Day.
And boy, did I put on a show. I would add so much extra Kirschwasser I’d create HUGE flames. Oooohs and “whoa!” that would spread through the large open, dimly lit dining room like, well, cherries on fire. (I found a direct correlation between how much Kirschwasser I added to the size of the tip I’d get from the diners. So… glug glug glug! The flames kept getting bigger and bigger!!) Each night, as soon as I made one Cherries Jubilee (or Bananas Foster), there’d be a rash of orders that was hard to keep up with. It was really fun.
Since leaving that waitressing job I’ve made a few Cherries and Bannanas desserts for special occasions. But not often. It’s the Caesar — oh, the Caesar! — that’s stayed with me all this time. Over the years I’ve made this fabulous salad from memory and have played with it, modified it and made it my own. And since I found out about my Celiac, I’ve been modifying it to make it gluten free. I’ve researched and found all ingredients that are free from all gluten, including contamination. And to accommodate my milk (casein) allergy, I cut out the original butter for frying the croutons (using healthier oils instead) and only use raw, super-aged cheese.
So many (many!) years later, here is my current recipe for a Gluten Free Chicken Cesar Salad. It’s crisp romaine lettuce tossed with yummy homemade croutons (big hunks of fried, cheesy Bread), freshly made dressing and topped with grilled chicken. Who wouldn’t love that?!
I made this for a dinner party last night, hence the post this morning. But writing all this is making me sooooo hungry…! All I can think about right now are the (fairly soggy) leftovers tempting from the fridge. Hum… Is 8:30 too early for garlic breath? Nah…!
So whip up this salad (or even better; ask a BFF make it for you!), take a bite and close your eyes to be transported to your own little restaurant. And if you just so happen to find a place that actually makes a Gluten Free equivalent, tell us about it (in the comments below so we can all enjoy!).
And remember: always tip your Dessert Girl well for the show.