All Hail Caesar!

By on May 6, 2011

In MY (picky) opinion, there are three PERFECT Caesar Salads to be found in Tulsa, with the perfect marriage of garlic and lemon, plenty of tang from the proper use of mustard & Worcestershire, and no added “stuff” that would make it, in my book not a “real” Caesar (cream, tomatoes bacon etc…).

One such salad can be found at my house. Why is the one at my house one of my favorites? Well, usually one thinks their own version is perfect because they have tailored it to their own personal taste. Not so much in this case. I think it is perfect because it tastes “just like Mother’s”. This brings us to number two. Growing up, the most popularly eaten salad in my house was the Caesar. Again, it was perfect. There was only ever ONE Caesar Salad that could match it. And that brings us to number three, well…number one actually. The reason that Mother’s salad was (and remains) so amazing, is that HER recipe came from what I still maintain is THE Caesar Salad in Tulsa. It’s easy to miss as you drive down Yale past 31st, and many people not native to Tulsa don’t even know it exists, but to those of us who have enjoyed this inconspicuous gem for years still LOVE it. The Celebrity Restaurant (or more often still known to longtime Tulsans as the “Celebrity Club”, as it began in the 1960’s as a private dining club due to local liquor laws) still remains a family run business, almost a half-century after opening. Personally, I think that a visit to this classic Tulsa restaurant isn’t complete without enjoying their “table side” Caesar. Made from scratch in a big wooden bowl on a cart that is wheeled up next to your table, and often prepared by Nick Samara, whose father Mike opened the restaurant in 1963.

Mike Samara, after opening the restaurant as a private club was actually a contributor in the effort to legalize liquor by the drink in Oklahoma, and as a result obtained the first liquor license. He opened the doors to the public, and to this day (even well into his eighties) can be found donning his sport coat and personally greeting his guests each night at the restaurant. He says that his famous Caesar recipe was given to him by a Maître d’ in Oklahoma City who had worked at “The Pump Room” in Chicago.

Aside from the can’t-be-missed table side Caesar, Celebrity also offers what my sister-in-law considers to be Tulsa’s best kept secret in fried chicken, along with options of steak, chicken, fish and cold water Lobster tail. Although many times the salad alone is enough food for me, on my last visit I also had the grilled ribeye special, which was delish (and I hear is headed for a permanent spot on the menu). Just when I thought I didn’t have room for ANYTHING else, Nick surprised us with a dessert cocktail made from brandy, ice cream and nutmeg. I happily found room.

Caesar at Home

Although I highly recommend heading down to The Celebrity for a Caesar, as my family has done for years, here is my version that you can make at home. Historically speaking (and Caesar’s history is less than exact, though most people believe the salad was invented by Caesar Cardini back in 1924, decades before it gained popularity) the salad did not originally contain anchovies, but the slight flavor of anchovy was brought to the salad by the Worcestershire sauce. I usually add a bit of anchovy, as that is the way Mother always used to make it. I always make sure that the mustard I use (also not thought to be an ingredient in the “original” Caesar) is Coleman’s dry English Mustard. Also, unlike most traditionalists who insist on Lea & Perrins for their Worcestershire (which is great) I do deviate and use my personal fav, the “What’s This Here Sauce?” from Timothy Sean Fitzgerald. It’s made with Guinness, and well…we all know how I feel about Guinness.

Chef Amanda’s version of Mother’s version of The Celebrity Club Caesar:

3 Egg Yolks (I use raw eggs, but if you are not as comfortable with your egg source you can either buy Pasteurized eggs or pre cook the egg for 60-90 seconds)
2 Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, washed, dried, and torn
5 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Anchovy filet, chopped or 1 tsp Anchovy Paste
1 ? tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Coleman’s Dry English Mustard
1 Tbsp Champagne Vinegar
1 tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1 tsp Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 oz Grated Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Shaved Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for garnish
1 Cup croutons (I make mine with French bread brushed with minced garlic & olive oil & sprinkled with a bit of Asiago before toasting in the oven)

In a bowl, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, anchovy, and mustard. Add the egg, lemon juice, vinegar, and Worcestershire and whisk together until well blended. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly to ensure proper emulsification. Adjust seasoning to taste. Whisk in grated cheese just enough to combine. Toss gently with lettuce. Top with croutons and shaved cheese. Serves 4-6

To find my fav Worcestershire (What’s this here?” sauce, you can find Chef Tim at the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market, or at his kitchen at 18th & Boston.

The Celebrity Restaurant
3109 South Yale Avenue Tulsa, OK 74135-8007
(918) 743-1800
www.celebritytulsa.com

Celebrity Club Fine Dining on Urbanspoon

Chef Amanda Jane Simcoe: thecheesewench.blogspot.com:

Amanda Simcoe is a chef and food connoisseur. She absolutely loves good food and appreciates the art of cooking and trying new things. Also known as “The Cheese Wench,” she knows most everything there is to know about cheese. She loves using fresh ingredients and has a huge garden where she grows much of her own produce. Amanda also enjoys making beer at home and cooking elaborate meals.

About Amanda Jane Simcoe

20 Comments

  1. seikel

    May 6, 2011 at 11:07 am

    FINALLY.

    His brother opened Juniors in OKC; (which is still open and nearly identical) and the restaurant invented the Brandy Ice, (listed as a enjoyed contribution from Oklahoma in several publications) your ice cream treat.

    The hamburgers at lunch (not available at dinner) are some of the best in Tulsa. Fried Chicken with biscuits / gravy and a caeser is great. One of the best bars in Tulsa also. It is truly one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Thanks so much for the write up!

    Oh and they use a neutral salad oil at Celebrity Club, like a canola. And French’s mustard!

    • tulsa_ld

      May 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      -While i have not had their Brandy Ice drink (which a traditional Brandy Ice would contain Creme de Cacao, nutmeg optional) the drink also sounds like a poor-man’s Brandy Flip or a riff on a Brandy Alexander.

      Either way, i doubt they ‘invented’ it but without a recipe in front of me i cannot say for certain. Much like the Caesar, though, i’m sure it makes for a good story!

      tulsa_ld

  2. seikel

    May 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

    If you’re doing classic Tulsa a write up on Jamil’s would be awesome also ;)

    • Scott

      May 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Avoid Jamil’s. Their better days are long behind them. I’ve gone a few times and the service, food and consistency were poor. I think they’re just coasting by on their reputation.

      • seikel

        May 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

        To the new location? I’ve had good times at the new location. Also getting the food to go is pretty awesome. GIANT sacks of food! Mmm smoked chicken.

  3. Brian Schwartz

    May 6, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I had the Caesar a few days ago and I think it’s the best salad I’ve had in my life. So rare, and nice, to find one made with raw egg, and one made with such care. I’ve never met Mike Samana, he’s in the hospital now, and everyone hopes he gets well soon. I loved the ribeye; my date got the filet mignon and was ecstatic. Such elegant decor too. Gilt mirrors and Louis XV chairs.

  4. tulsa_ld

    May 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    -If it can’t be consumed without a fork, i don’t want it.

    I love Caesar salads using grilled whole lettuce leaves, not only is it pretentious and a bit atypical, it is how the salad was originally designed…depending on who to talk to.

    Yet another food with a great history and plenty of different stories, preferences, and discussions to be had over the table.

    Cheers.

    tulsa_ld

    • Amanda

      May 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      ld you sound like my kid brother! :) Just yesterday he was lamenting that upon his return to the States (he’s been bumming around Asia for most of the past year) he isn’t sure how he is going to cope with having to use utensils other than chopsticks. Apparently, the “flavor” added to the food by the metal or even plastic is just not something he can stand anymore. Guess the kid is going to have to shell out for some wooden stuff.

      Grilled Caesar is alright, but Romaine isn’t my favorite lettuce to serve heated. I like some warm salads, but usually even then only warmed by the dressing.

  5. seikel

    May 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The decorations around Christmas are crazy. Blinding even.

    Junior’s in OKC is almost identical inside; visit if you can. The salad carts and bowls are just as old, and they allow smoking!

    A Brandy Ice is just vanilla ice cream, Creme de Cacao, and a lot of brandy. Nutmeg and Whipped cream optional. Pretty great dessert.

    • Jill Burns

      June 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

      YUCK! Smoking ruins the experience of great food!

      • Amanda

        June 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

        Seriously, what a way to ruin a great dining experience. Blech!

  6. Brian Schwartz

    May 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

    As a sidenote, the history of Caesar salad stretches back to the days of the Caesars. Apicius, a cookbook composed around 400 AD, has recipes for salads dressed with garum, a distant relative of Worcestershire Sauce, and also for salads made with eggs, though I can’t find any that use both together.

    • tulsa_ld

      May 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      -I was always under the impression that, while more similar in style and consistency to Worcestershire, that garum actually was closer to salad dressing/mayonnaise in how it was used in Rome i.e. as the main additive/condiment in most dishes. Not only was it used to dress many if not most salads, but also various meat and other dishes.

      The Caesar is not widely considered to get its start until the 20th century, but i suppose anyone that dressed a salad in history could be connected to its growth. I just don’t see the Apicius connection from my recollection.

      tulsa_ld

      • Brian Schwartz

        May 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

        Okay I’m stretching it. Garum is most like southeast Asian fish sauce, which is called nam pla in Thailand and nuoc mam in Vietnam. I don’t think it was the main additive since it was very expensive… and also because, while a few drops of fish sauce enhance the flavor, a lot will ruin it… it’s made of decayed fish, after all. Still, I think it’s pretty amazing to know that 1900 years ago (Apicius was about 400 AD but describes things common many years earlier) real-life Caesars were eating salads dressed with a fish sauce that’s a relative of Worcestershire and with eggs.

  7. Mike

    May 10, 2011 at 12:10 am

    You need to check out his relative restaurant on OKC called Michaels grill. Phenomenal and same made from scratch salad.

    • Amanda

      May 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

      On my list Mike! Thanks!

  8. Nathan Phelps

    May 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I have this recipe as well and it’s easy to make and taste fabulous. That being said, I can’t quite decide if I like it or Dalesandro’s caesar better.

    • Amanda

      May 29, 2011 at 9:59 am

      “and no added “stuff” that would make it, in my book not a “real” Caesar (cream, tomatoes bacon etc…).”

      Dalesandro’s is in fact one of the offending pseudo-Caesars referenced above.. Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE BACON. So much so that I have cooked a 9 course bacon dinner, I have taught cooking classes based around bacon, and will put it in/on anything from fudgecicles, martinis and bread pudding to apple pie. CAESAR however, DOES NOT contain bacon. The salad at Dalesandro’s is indeed tasty, but when I want Caesar, I want the real thing. Also, I thought it was odd that they have a “Tableside Caesar” that isn’t. Sorry, a “tableside” salad is MADE tableside, not just served to your table in a big bowl premade in the kitchen. That’s just a LARGE salad. Fail.

      • Don

        May 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm

        Hmmm…fake Caesar, fake table side salad. False menu advertising if you ask me.

  9. Gopokes

    September 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    How much lemon juice do you use? I didn’t see it listed on the list of ingredients…….

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