A Review of Cal Peternell’s Caesar Salad Dressing

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Given my line of work, I am, by default, the cook in our family. Most of the time I’m OK with this arrangement, because my husband Joe is a great dishwasher. However, I relish the moments he takes the reins in the kitchen and leaves me to sip my wine on the couch.

Among his roster of specialities is a simple Caesar dressing from the pages of Cal Peternell’s wonderful cookbook, Twelve Recipes. I’ve yet to meet another version that compares! In fact, when we were living with my in-laws during the height of COVID-19, Joe and his brother went head-to-head in a Caesar salad dressing competition, and Joe’s came out on top. It has since become the go-to recipe among all of my in-laws. It hits all the garlicky, pleasantly pungent notes you’d expect, and couldn’t be easier to make.

A Classic Caesar Dressing That Never Fails

What I love about this recipe is that it celebrates the key ingredients of Caesar dressing and eschews flourishes. It fully embraces egg yolks and anchovy fillets, skips conveniences like anchovy paste, and doesn’t involve what I deem to have no place in Caesar dressing: mayonnaise.

You simply mash a garlic clove with lots of anchovy fillets in a mortar with a pestle; stir in Dijon, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper; then stir in an egg yolk and olive oil until the dressing is creamy and emulsified. At that point, as Peternell describes in his cookbook, it’s anchovy vinaigrette. To make it a true Caesar dressing, grated Parmesan cheese should be stirred in, which my husband is very generous with. To serve, Joe drizzles the dressing over torn romaine leaves, tosses the greens to coat, then tops the salad with more grated Parmesan, black pepper, and sometimes (but not always because, honestly, we’re lazy) homemade croutons.

If You Make This Caesar Dressing, a Few Tips

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

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