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A Proper Chicken Caesar Salad

I was curious if there were other mavens out there, did a quick google search and ran across the Food Maven last week. I spent a little while exploring his maven-ness (he has two kitchens). He had a recipe for Chicken à la King (my quintessential childhood meal) and Jamie Oliver's recipe for a Proper Chicken Caesar Salad. I am a big fan of anything proper and I needed an idea for Saturday night dinner— sounded like a plan. One of my favorite roasted chicken recipes is Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken with Croutons and this recipe is the salad version. The croutons are addictive, full of roasted chicken flavor and lemon. I made a few additions to the original recipe: roasted Roma tomatoes, preserved lemons, onion and lots more garlic in the dressing. Ted said it was the best salad I have ever made.  

Proper Chicken Caesar Salad (adapted from Jamie Oliver)

8 - 10 Roma tomatoes, halved and roasted

6 whole chicken thighs, skin on

1 loaf ciabatta bread, torn into thumb-sized pieces

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped

1 whole preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped

1 whole sweet onion, chopped

Olive oil

Herb and garlic salt (recipe here) or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 thin slices pancetta

Dressing

4 cloves peeled garlic

6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained

7 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve

3 heaped tablespoon crème fraîche

2 lemon, juiced

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until brown and caramelized, about 30 - 45 minutes.

Place the torn up pieces of ciabatta, rosemary, preserved lemon and onion in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. Place the chicken thighs on top of the bread mixture and season with salt and pepper. This way, the bread will soak up all the lovely juices from the chicken, giving you the best croutons! Pop the pan into the preheated oven.

After about 45 minutes the chicken should be nicely cooked. Take the pan out of the oven, drape the pancetta over the chicken and croutons, and put back for another 15 to 20 minutes for everything to crisp up. The chicken legs are ready when you can pinch the meat off the bone easily. When they're cooked, remove the pan from the oven and set it aside for the chicken to cool down slightly. If the croutons are not crisp, put them back in the oven for an additional 10 - 15 minutes.

Place the garlic, anchovy fillets, Parmesan, crème fraîche and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the machine running, add 3 times as much extra virgin olive oil as lemon juice in a steady stream and process until thick and smooth. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Pull the chicken meat off the leg bones - you can use 2 forks to do this, or your hands if you're tough like me - and tear it up roughly with the croutons and the bacon. Wash, spin dry and separate the romaine, tear them up and toss with the chicken, croutons, bacon and dressing. Scatter with some Parmesan shavings and roasted tomatoes.

The 2010 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay was the perfect wine for this salad. In my experience, California chardonnay can be a mouthful of buttery oak. This wine shattered that preconceived notion. It is a rich, lush chardonnay with a long bright finish. Makes me want to have a proper caesar salad again soon!