Hand-Held Caesar with Quail Eggs and Crouton Crumbs


Photo by Michael Piazza

Like a whole salad in a bite, these lettuce cups are a light and welcome addition to an otherwise rich hors d’oeuvres table. Be sure to seek out local growers for sturdy lettuce leaves, like FreshBox Farms’ Romaine, Corner Stalk’s heirloom leaves or heads of Little Gem at Volante; if fresh quail eggs are hard to find, just quarter a soft-yolked hen’s egg instead (although Concord’s Verrill Farm has their own quail eggs regularly). Fry stale breadcrumbs in olive oil for the “croutons” and skip the anchovy garnish if your guests disapprove—but a little bit of anchovy in the dressing is a must.

Makes 12

6 quail eggs or 3 local chicken eggs
1 egg yolk
1 clove grated garlic
juice of ½ a lemon
7 anchovies, 1 minced and 6 cut in half crosswise
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for shaving as garnish
12 Little Gem or small Romaine lettuce leaves
½ cup fried breadcrumbs (sauté fresh breadcrumbs in olive oil until dark brown and crispy)

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and set up an ice water bath. Gently lower quail eggs into the pot and cook 3 minutes exactly; if using chicken eggs, cook for 6 minutes. Remove to the ice water, chill, then peel and set aside. In a small bowl whisk egg yolk with garlic, lemon juice, minced anchovy and a pinch each of salt, sugar and pepper. Dribble in olive oil very slowly, whisking constantly, until an emulsified dressing forms. Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano, taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and spoon a bit of dressing into the “cup” of each one, then top each with a halved quail egg (or quartered chicken egg), a halved anchovy, a sprinkle of fried breadcrumbs and some shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano. Dribble more dressing on top, shower with cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

This recipe appeared in the Winter 2019 issue as part of a larger story on pantry staple hors d’oeuvres.