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

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(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.
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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!
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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.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade dressing - hail, Caesar!
 
Author:
Serves: 3-4 servings
Ingredients
For the croutons:
  • 4 cups crusty French or Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
For the dressing:
  • 1 large raw or coddled egg yolk*
  • 1½ TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste (or 1 anchovy fillet)**
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (I suggest starting with one, then adding another if you feel it needs it)
  • ½ tsp. mustard powder**
  • ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup good parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2-3 TBSP water, as needed
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
For the salad:
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 hearts of romaine, washed, thoroughly dried, and chopped
  • freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Dressing and croutons, to taste
Instructions
For the croutons:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Cube bread and place in a large bowl. Crush the garlic with the flat side of a knife, and chop it roughly. Add a pinch of salt, and smash the garlic back and forth, smearing it with the flat side of the blade against the cutting board to make a paste. Add the paste to the bread, and toss with olive oil until lightly but evenly coated. Add a bit more salt, and toss to combine.
  3. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5-8 minutes, until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  4. (Once completely cool, croutons can be stored in an airtight container or baggie at room temperature for up to a few days.)
For the dressing:
  1. In the bowl of your food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil, parmesan cheese, water, and salt and pepper. Blend to combine.
  2. While blending, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add the parmesan cheese, and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and thin with water to desired consistency. (You can also make other adjustments here, according to your tastes -- if you'd like a little more lemon or vinegar, a bit more mustard or anchovy, etc., add it now and pulse to combine.)
  3. Transfer to an airtight container or jar, and store in the fridge until you're ready to use. Dressing is best made an hour or two in advance to let the flavors come together, and can be stored in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
For the salad:
  1. Season chicken breasts 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 the meat is cooked through. According to the FDA, the meat should register 165 degrees F. at it's thickest point on a meat thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, you can slice into the thickest part and the juices should run clear. The meat should be white/opaque all the way through. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing.
  2. Wash, dry, and chop romaine and add to a large bowl. When you're ready to serve, add a few TBSP dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing one TBSP at a time to desired amount.
  3. Slice the chicken, and lay atop the salad. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and croutons, and serve.
Notes
*Classic caesar dressing is made using raw egg yolks to create a thick emulsion similar to mayonnaise. Knowing where your eggs come from (making sure they are local and organically raised) is one way to mitigate the risk of consuming raw eggs. If you want to eliminate the risk altogether, I recommend using pasteurized eggs.
(It's also possible to make a caesar dressing using mayonnaise in place of the raw eggs. However, because mayonnaise is already emulsified, you will need to reduce or eliminate the olive oil to avoid having a greasy, runny dressing. This will throw off the proportions of the other ingredients as well, but you're welcome to play around with them to come up with a raw-egg-free dressing that suits your tastes.)

**Traditional caesar dressing was made without anchovies or mustard. I've included them both here because I know I prefer it that way. They provide a nice roundness of flavor, without making the dressing taste fishy or mustardy (if you aren't a fan of anchovies or mustard, I doubt you'll even notice they're there). If you prefer to omit the anchovies, I suggest replacing them with a splash more worcestershire sauce.

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24 Responses to Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade dressing – hail, Caesar!

  1. Kat June 14, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    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.

    • Willow June 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Indeed, the fresh croutons were amazing! I couldn’t believe how good they were. Will definitely make them again!

  2. Purabi Naha June 14, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Who will not love this amazing salad? It looks awesome!!

  3. Debs @ The Spanish Wok June 14, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    I love caesar salad and not had it for so long, love the recipe; thanks.

    You are welcome to join in my monthly food blogger event THE SOUP KITCHEN, here offering a new theme each month. All bloggers are welcome, hope to see you participate soon.

    • Willow June 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Great, thanks for the invite! I’ll keep that in mind next time I make something that might fit the theme. :)

  4. MyFudo™ June 14, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    My ultimate favorite. I can never get bored with Caesar salad…This is something I must try!

    • Willow June 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      Wonderful, hope you like it!

  5. mohalakitchen June 14, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    um.. i want this in my mouth. like right now.

  6. glutenfreehappytummy.com June 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    hail caesar is right! that looks so delicious! and that dressing — yummmm! thanks for sharing!

  7. Foodie Stuntman June 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Looks delicious. I have another variation on it but I’ll email you it…

  8. Charlotte Julienne June 15, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    What lovely photos soo yummy!

  9. Ritroviamoci in Cucina June 15, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    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.

    • Willow June 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      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! :)

  10. From Valeries Kitchen June 16, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    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!

    • Willow June 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      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

  11. Elly McCausland June 16, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    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.

    • Willow June 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      That’s a great idea, will have to try that sometime!

  12. Anonymous June 19, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    It looks so good. I can’t wait the moment to prepare it, my mouth is watering…

  13. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes June 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    I absolutely ADORE your new header – so awesome!

    And homemade croutons are so addicting…when i made them for my hunters stew i couldn’t help but eat them straight out of the pan :0

    • Willow June 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      Thanks, Heather! It was about time for a new one. :)

  14. [email protected] June 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    This looks delicious! I have some fresh romaine I just cut in my garden last night. I know now how I’ll be using it :-D

    • Willow June 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      Wonderful! Hope you like it!

  15. Kelly | Eat Yourself Skinny June 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    What a gorgeous salad, this looks amazing! :)

  16. Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom April 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad is definitely one of my faves and a classic! Love this!

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