I don’t like salad. I’m not one to order it in restaurants or make it at home or crave it over menu items like pasta or garlic bread. I’m also not one that is often able to fit into my jeans. But that’s a story for another time. However, there is one salad that consistently gets me excited – UNLESS it’s done badly – a crime I consider to be unforgivable since the salad in question is beyond easy to make.
The dish that I’m blathering on about goes so much further than just a bowl of greenery. Juicy roast chicken, crackling shards of bacon, crisp romaine lettuce, perhaps a few creamy slivers of ripe avocado and a sharp Parmesan cheese are all brought together with an addictively salty anchovy dressing is the stuff lovers of bistro-style fare dream of. While not entirely authentic, I have found that the addition of avocado and anchovy have taken an otherwise pleasant salad into the realm of gourmet – at almost no extra fuss to the cook. Flavour aside, the other allure of a Caesar Salad is that it is so perfectly suited to leftovers; especially so around this time of year (that’s December 2017 folks) what with the abundance of chicken, turkey and bacon leftover from Christmas dinner. Simply shred the fowl in question and add to the salad.
And if all that greenery is still feeling too righteous for festive feasting, for this recipe I’ve provided both a Caesar Salad as well as Caesar Sandwich – I’ve liberally spooned the same anchovy dressing used for the salad over shredded roast chicken and wedged the lot between two slices of sourdough.
Because who doesn’t love a Christmas leftover sarnie? Just in case you don’t have leftovers, I’ve included my fool-proof roast chicken recipe below too.
The Ultimate Caesar Salad
Prep time: 30mins / Cook time: 1 hour / Serves: 4
For the roast chicken, you will need:
- 1 large free-range chicken
- A handful of fresh parsley, washed
- A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, washed
- 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 large lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse ground salt and pepper
- 100ml soy sauce
- 150ml dry white wine
- 6 to 8 slices of organic bacon
For the salad:
- 2 to 3 heads of romaine or cos lettuce, washed
- 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 wedge of Parmesan cheese
- A few slices of fresh ciabatta
For the dressing:
- 4 to 5 anchovy fillets in oil
- 1 large garlic clove
- 200ml creme fraiche
- Coarse ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Using sharp kitchen scissors, snip through the chicken’s back or breastbone and push down to flatten. To make the marinade, pull the rosemary leaves from their woody stalks and finely chop. Finely chop the parsley, leaves and stalks and add to a mixing bowl along with the rosemary, crushed garlic and the juice and zest of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper and add a good glug of the olive oil. Stir together and rub the mixture into the chicken, making sure to get it under the skin of the breast and between the leg and wing joints. Place the chicken in a roasting dish and pour the soy sauce and white wine into the bottom. Roast at 200°C for 30 minutes before turning down the heat to 180°C for the final half hour. In the final 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and the slices of bacon over the top of the roast. Pop the chicken back into the oven and continue cooking until the bacon is crisp. Remove the roast from the oven, set the crispy bacon aside, and allow the chicken to cool slightly before dividing it up and shredding the breast meat.
For the dressing, put all of the ingredients (including a teaspoon or so of the anchovy oil) into a liquidiser (I used my NutriBullet) and blitz until smooth. Chill until needed.
To assemble the Caesar Salad, layer the romaine leaves in a large, flattish dish. Top with some roughly shredded roast chicken and the avocado slices. Using your fingers, crumble the bacon over the salad and grate or shave some Parmesan over the top. Drizzle over the anchovy dressing and serve. Since Caesar Salad is usually served with croutons, you have the option of using either fresh ciabatta to mop up the dressing or making your own crispy crunchy croutons by doing the following: cube the ciabatta and toss in a little of the gravy left in the bottom of the roasting pan. Scatter the bread over a lined baking sheet and bake in a 180°C oven until crisp and golden. Add the croutons to the salad and voila!
For the Caesar Sandwich, simply combine the shredded breast meat from the chicken with a good dollop of the anchovy dressing until creamy. Layer a few slices of crispy bacon and ripe avocado on a slice of ciabatta, top with the shredded chicken mixture and a few romaine leaves and place a second slice of ciabatta on top. Secure the sandwich with a cocktail stick and slice in half.
Here I’ve enjoyed my sandwich and salad with a glass of Groote Post Chenin Blanc 2017.