Milagro Shows Us Everything We Didn’t Know About Caesar Salad

You eat it all the time. It’s covered in thick, creamy dressing. It has more bacon than a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. And somehow you still equate ordering it to making a healthy menu choice. Well, you’ve been doing it wrong. Sorry, but it’s true. We took a look at one of North America’s favourite dishes and decided we’d get to the bottom of it, and you know what we found? We didn’t even know where it was from. Luckily, Arturo Anhalt, Owner of Toronto’s three Milagro locations and himself a native of Mexico City, was more than willing to set us straight.

The History
Like all classic dishes, the creation of the Caesar salad exists as a hazy blend of truth and myth. Apparently, at his restaurant in Tijuana in the 1920s, owner Caesar Cardini ran out of much of his food during a July 4th celebration. Not the kind of restaurateur willing to deny his patrons food, Caesar took a look at what he had left in the kitchen and put together a fresh new salad that no one had ever had before. You could do this too if you ever had more than some purple stuff and Sunny D kicking around.

The Ingredients
You won’t find chicken or bacon here. The classic Caesar salad is a simple dish and much lighter than the heavier American versions you’ll find in most non-Mexican restaurants. Arturo admits that a couple of ingredients in Milagro’s Caesar have been added since Cardini’s original (the anchovies, for instance), but this is as true a recreation as you’re going to find anywhere in Toronto. Here is the simple list:

Roman lettuce (full leaves, never chopped)
Salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan cheese
Raw egg
Crouton (one) 

The Dressing
Despite what Kraft would have you believe, the dressing isn’t Ranch-style. It’s a vinaigrette. The tang is derived from fresh lime, not vinegar. It’s a loose and tart flavour that’s much more refreshing and summery (remember, it was made in Mexico in July) than you’re likely used to getting. The garlic and anchovies are pressed together with a fork before being put in a large bowl. The raw egg is added and mixed. Olive oil is then slowly added while the egg, garlic, and anchovies are constantly blended. A generous amount of fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese are then added. The result is a thin, yellow dressing that looks nothing like the thick white versions you find lining grocery store shelves. We told you you’ve been doing it wrong.

The Prep
Arturo tells us that in Mexico there is a specific position in the restaurant dedicated to making your Caesar salad tableside. This guy wears a suit and takes his job very seriously. Think: the opposite of that teenager who gave you lip the last time you were at Boston Pizza. Unfortunately, Ontario health codes won’t allow your food to be made tableside – sounds like a solid reason to head to Cabo for the weekend, no?

The Result
You get one crouton. Seriously. One. But it’s big and delicious and crafted with care rather than chemicals. It’s more like a little piece of toast that’s been soaked in the same dressing as the salad. It sits atop your Caesar and, along with the salad, is given a heavy layer of freshly grated Parmesan. The finished plate is, as we’ve mentioned, much lighter and more refreshing than the Caesar salads we’re used to seeing in front of us. Arturo pairs ours with a Michelada, a beer mixed with lime juice and served with a chili and salt rim. It might just be our new favourite summer combo… well, as soon as summer arrives, anyway. 

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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