Hail Caesar!

by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

The fact of the matter is that women fake it sometimes.

Now I am aware that as a woman I really should not be divulging this information, but I am and we do. Deal with it people.

As women our lives are complex and busy enough as it is, so who can blame us if we aren’t always in the right frame of mind or have the physical ability to get to the real thing. I know most women don’t usually admit to things like this – but I must stand up and say loud and proud that I fake it now and then. Truth be told I fake it almost every day. Honestly, for me it’s a matter of necessity. No really – hear me out!

I can’t eat dairy products. Dairy makes me ill – the yucky kind of ill that makes me diligent about avoiding it at all costs. The tricky thing is that I happen to love the way dairy products look and smell, the shameless foodie within me constantly imagining how the addition of something creamy and stringy and gooey would enhance a particular dish.

I know countless women who given the choice would rather sacrifice wine or chocolate in place of cheese. So in a valiant effort to not appear handicapped, I always try to recreate foods that traditionally contain dairy and make them into lactose free masterpieces that taste better than the real deal.

Speaking of dairy, everyone loves Caesar salad, right? Whenever I see people eating Caesar salad my mouth starts to water. That garlicky smell, the gentle snowstorm of pungent white Parmesan…I have always been jealous of the lucky consumers of such deliciousness.

Every time my husband breathes his garlicky Caesar satisfaction in my direction, I am forced into that ‘how unfair’ feeling. Consequently, I have tried many times to make a dairy-free Caesar salad and many times I have failed. Somehow they just never seemed to satisfy my lust for that specific dairy flavour profile.

Fortunately all of my efforts eventually led to designing a recipe that I think give other Caesar dressings a run for their money. All of the signature flavours are present and the overall taste is great, even without Parmesan. Most of my dairy eating friends prefer this version and my own ravenous horde (aka, my family) ask me to make it almost every time they come for dinner – and in my world that’s the test that matters most.

Jax’s ‘Fake’ Caesar Salad
Start with a cup of good mayonnaise – people who avoid things that come out of an udder know that mayonnaise is next to godliness. Never buy cheap mayo! Add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Mash 3 whole anchovies or add a big squirt of anchovy paste and add to the dressing. Oh get over it – put them in! Add about 2 toes of crushed garlic (even better if you use roasted garlic). Include a good six or seven shots of Worcestershire, salt and pepper (to taste) and whip into a frenzy. This dressing will last well in the fridge for over a week.

Next, put sliced pancetta (two slices per person) on parchment and roast them off on a baking sheet in a 425 F degree oven for about 10 minutes (thickness can vary final cooking time). When the Pancetta discs are crispy and brown take them out and set them aside.

Cube up any day old bread you have (artesian breads are obviously the best choice) and toss them in the leftover pancetta fat. If the cubes are too dry, add olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and toast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until crunchy and golden.

Cut a trimmed head of Romaine lettuce in half and place on a plate.

In a back and forth motion, drizzle the salad with the dressing and a balsamic reduction (I use a bottled variety). Sprinkle with the croutons and add 3 or four toes of roasted garlic over the top, garnishing with the pancetta on the side.

If you absolutely must, finely grate Parmesan over the whole thing. Damn you.