Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade dressing – hail, Caesar!

IMG_5248 2 b
(Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade dressing – recipe in post)
Perhaps one of the greatest salads of all time, and definitely one of the most iconic – the Caesar Salad. One of my all-time favorites, this salad was first created on the fly by an Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini (that’s right, the name has nothing to do with Rome or its emperors). As with many other great culinary inventions - like nachos, buffalo wings, and chocolate chip cookies - the Caesar salad was born of a need to throw something together on the fly with limited time and ingredients. All I can say is, thank goodness for kitchen ‘mishaps’ like these!
Being such a huge fan of Caesar Salads, I tend to order them at nearly every restaurant willing to dish them out. This obsession has led to the discover that there is quite a range of variation when it comes to dressings - some mild, some sharp, some mustardy, some garlicy… so I went in search of a recipe that would best suite me.
IMG_5212 2 b
After looking at dozens of recipes, I finally decided on none of them. Instead, I based my dressing off Wikipedia’s list of ingredients, and what I know of my own taste. Daring, I know, but I couldn’t let someone else be the judge of what my perfect Caesar dressing would be.
The results were outstanding – better than many restaurant rendition, and just as quick and easy as store-bought. Plus, it’s easy to adjust for personal preference, whether you like it more lemony, mustardy, or salty. By all means, use my recipe as a base and make it your own!
IMG_5398 2 recipe b

I had also never made croutons from scratch, another fundamental element of the classic Caesar salad. And can I tell you, they are incredible! Since normally I would pick around the bland, rock-hard cubes, I was tempted to skip them entirely… but these were nothing like that. Believe me when I say they shone as the highlight of the dish – fragrant, crispy little nuggets of garlic bread heaven. It was a force of will not to eat them all straight from the oven.

Topped with juicy, perfectly grilled chicken breast, and a few shavings of parmesan cheese, this was without a doubt one of the best Caesar salads I’ve eaten. Freshly tossed, or served up in a wrap for a quick and tasty lunch, you simply cannot go wrong.

 

Caesar Salad
Serves 4

For the croutons:
4 cups crusty French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 clove garlic, crushed
2-3 TBSP olive oil

For the dressing:
1 large raw or coddled egg yolk (or 3-4 TBSP mayonnaise)*
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. anchovy paste (or 1-2 anchovy fillets)**
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. mustard powder**
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2-3 TBSP water
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

For the salad:
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
2 hearts of romaine, washed and chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
Dressing and croutons, to taste

Recipe notes:
*Raw egg warning! Classic Caesar dressing is made using raw egg yolks, to create an emulsion similar to mayonnaise. I suggest always using natural and organically raised eggs, especially for raw or undercooked applications, but if this isn’t an option or you’d prefer not to take any chances, you should be able to substitute the egg for a few TBSP mayonnaise.
**The traditional Caesar salad dressing was made without anchovies or mustard. I’ve included them both here because I know I prefer it that way. The anchovies provide a nice saltiness, and the mustard powder gives a roundness of flavor – it does not make the dressing taste mustardy. If you’d like to omit the anchovies, replace them with another 1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and feel free to play with the mustard to your preference.

Method
For the croutons:
Preheat oven to 300f.
Cube bread and place in a bowl. Crush garlic with the flat side of a knife, and chop roughly. Add a pinch of salt, and smash the garlic back and forth, smearing it under the blade of the knife to make a paste. Add the paste to the bread, and toss with 2-3 TBSP olive oil to coat.
Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 15-25 minutes, stirring every 5-8 minutes, until golden and crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the dressing:
To the bowl of your food processor, add all ingredients except the olive oil, parmesan cheese, water, and salt and pepper. Process to combine.
While blending, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the processor. Add the parmesan cheese, and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and thin with water to desired consistency.
Keep dressing refrigerated in a sealed container until ready to use. Use within several days of making.

For the salad:
Season chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Brush grill with oil (or lightly oil a pan) and grill (or sear) for 3-4 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through. Chicken breast should be cooked to no less than 165f., at its thickest point.
Wash, dry, and chop romaine and add to a large bowl. When ready to serve, add a few TBSP dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing one TBSP at a time to desired amount.
Slice warm chicken at an angle, and lay atop salad. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and croutons, and serve.

IMG_5184 2 b

24 thoughts on “Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade dressing – hail, Caesar!

  1. Kat

    I love that you just got the list of ingredients and went to town. Best way to make it “to taste.” I love the Ceasar dressing too (I like mine on anchovy/garlicky side as I like strong flavors, and in part to mask the stale croutons they sometimes serve in restaurants). Having fresh croutons must have made a lot of difference.

    Reply
  2. Ritroviamoci in Cucina

    Hi Willow, It ‘s been so long since I write here on your blog, but if you look at my last post you’ll understand why :o)
    I learn by reading your post that the caesar salad was invented by an Italian and it made ​​me smile because here is almost impossible to find it in restaurants!
    As always your presentation is impeccable.

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Wow, what a beautiful place! And how funny that it’s so hard to find a caesar salad… fortunately, they aren’t difficult to make from scratch! :)

      Reply
  3. From Valeries Kitchen

    Who doesn’t love Caesar? And, btw, this is one of the first salads you can get kids to eat because it’s simple and not overloaded with “icky” vegetables. Mine are way past that point and totally into “icky” vegetables but I can remember being thrilled when they ate Caesar…I knew they’d come along. Adding the protein makes it a meal. Love it!

    Reply
    1. Willow

      How true! It was probably one of the first salads I liked as a kid, but then again I was also into the’icky vegetables’… no one had to force me to eat my broccoli, I loved it! :P

      Reply
  4. Elly McCausland

    You just cannot beat a caesar salad. Particularly when it looks as fresh and juicy as the one in your photos! I experimented with a yoghurt-based Caesar dressing a few days ago, it worked surprisingly well.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>