Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Daddy of Chicken Caesar Salads

caesar salad 3
I've found since leaving University that my ability to sleep in has greatly diminished. It's so frustrating! I find myself wide awake at 7am on a Saturday, my body clock fully expecting me to dash off to work, when all I want to do is embrace the joys of not having to get up and go to work. JJ does not suffer from such an affliction. He would sleep in til noon if I let him. He's one of those people that can nap anytime, anywhere. It's one of the main points of difference in our relationship, made worse by our extremely open plan flat with very creaky floorboards. Try as I might to potter away quietly downstairs, I'll end up crashing and banging around, waking him up anyway.

So to try and avoid disturbing his lie in this past weekend, I sneaked out super early to spend the day wandering around Borough market with a very lovely blog buddy - why can't I spend my whole life wandering around produce markets in the sunshine with awesome friends talking pretty much non-stop about food?? Heaven! The resulting haul included rhubarb, which will feature in the next post, some stunning Sicillian lemons (so pretty I couldn't resist but no idea what to do with them - ideas welcome!) and a rather magnificent chicken. The chicken was simply roasted up and served with Jersey Royal potatoes and English asparagus and enthusiastically devoured Sunday evening. But, given that there's only two of us, there was plenty left over for last night's supper. Enter the king of all chicken salads - the Chicken Caesar!
caesar salad 4
Salads have such a bad rap. Those lip, lifeless green leaves thrown onto a plate are the root cause of the problem - I've never really understood how restaurants get away with charging so much for them! Side salads. Urgh. Even the name is enough to make me skip the salad and order something far less healthy.

But with the wedding looming ever closer and my diet being ruined by oh so much temptation (mostly my own fault, I'll concede) it's time to get salad happy! And there are so many incredible salads out there. I've never had such praise for a meal as the one I prepared the other night of a selection of deliciously different salads. This could be something to do with a rather amazing cookbook I'm now the very proud owner of, but I'm also going to go ahead and take a little credit. (not much though... It's really all down to the cookbook!)
caesar salad dressing 2
With the left over chicken, it had to be chicken salad and, of course, there's no chicken salad quite like a chicken Caesar salad. This salad started off innocently enough - chicken, lettuce and a bit of dressing. But somewhere between the lettuce aisle and eggs aisle, we got a little carried away. So this version would, I'm sure, make Cardini roll in his grave, but I'm willing to live with that. You can, of course, par it right back and just serve the dressing on the lettuce but that's just a touch too much like a 'side salad' for my liking!
caesar salad 2
Caesar Salad
Serves 2 for supper or 4 for a starter

For the croutons:
2 slices white bread, cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the salad:
1 crispy lettuce (Romaine ideally, but hey, it's lettuce. Use whatever you've got)
Half a cucumber, diced
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
Diced, cooked chicken, around 1 cup.
Freshly grated parmesan
4 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)

For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 floz/125ml olive oil

Place the rashers of bacon on a tray and pop in the oven. Turn the oven to 200C. Apparently, this stops the bacon from shrinking or something...

Toss the bread cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven to toast, about 10 minutes or so (until golden - this depends so much on how dry your bread is so be prepared for this to take longer).

Crush the garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt. A pestle and mortar would work great here - we don't own one though so just chopping it very finely works well too! Add the egg yolks, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and dijon mustard and give a whisk around.

Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. This sounds tough but I have a VERY low tollerance for hand whisking and it took no time at all. Once it's all added it should have the consistency of slightly thickened double cream. Give it a taste and season with pepper and lemon juice. I wouldn't add any more salt as we used anchovies, bacon and parmesan, but if you're not using quite such an excessive number of salty ingredients, do season to taste with salt too.

On a large platter (or individual bowls) lay the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and chicken. Add a good couple of dollops of dressing and a grating of parmesan and toss to distribute. Crumble over the bacon and scatter with croutons. You can serve with bread too, but it's really hearty in its own right. Devour immediately! The dressing will keep for about a week in the fridge but, as with any lettuce-based salad, leaves should be dressed immediately before eating.

If you're worried about the raw egg component, apparently they can be coddled before hand. I've never tried this but though as I like to live dangerously. That, and I'm lazy. But of course, this might be one of those salads to avoid if you're pregnant!

Rosy xx


  1. Hurrah for early morning trips to markets with awesome friends! Made my week being able to wander and natter in the sunshine. Shame I can't enjoy your salad, but bring on the rhubarb! I'm going to be knocking up something with the lemons soon too, but am also out of ideas. They smell so lush. I'm thinking classic lemon cake or tart. Something super lemony!

  2. He he, maybe I should join you in your short working weeks and we can spend days on end pottering in the sunshine! I've just decided on the 'lemon yoghurt anything cake' on Smitten Kitchen. Yes, it's lemon and blueberry again, but it just looks far too good for words!! Plus I feel loaf cakes hardly count as proper cakes... Do they feel healthier to you too or is that just me?!