Make mine a Caesar
Whether you believe it to be a Canadian invention or not, the Caesar is undeniably one of Canada’s favourite cocktails. But where most cocktails work by balancing sweet, sour, bitter and strong flavours, the Caesar is one of a small number of cocktails that also brings elements of salty and umami into play.
A balance of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami is also characteristic of good cooking, so I thought it would be fun to try and reinterpret the drink as a dish. To me, there are four main elements in a Caesar: tomato, clams, vodka and celery. Other flavours, such as Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon or lime juice and, of course, Tabasco sauce, are frequently added to customize the drink.
Starting with the four main flavours, I decided to use tomatoes in three forms: fresh cherry tomatoes, a strip of gelled tomato juice, and a piece of dried tomato. In the drink, the clams are usually a subtext in the Clamato juice, so I thought I’d bring them front and centre by steaming some clams in white wine, chilling them, and plating them as-is. The celery came in the form of celery leaves garnishing the clams, and a celery seed “tuile”. The vodka was the hardest element to incorporate in a natural way; I ultimately decided to marinate one of the three cherry tomatoes in vodka. For the secondary flavours, I spattered the plate with some Worcestershire sauce, placed some drops of Tabasco underneath the gelled tomato juice, and added a horseradish-lemon mayonnaise.
Sometimes it can be hard to name new creations, whether dishes or drinks, but in this case it was easy. I couldn’t call it anything but what it is: a Caesar Salad!