A little retro, slightly kitsch but altogether a delicious option for lunch or an al fresco dinner, the Caesar salad is one of my go-to speedy salads. One of the benefits of Caesar salad is that at heart, it’s a blank canvas for flavour – with anything ranging from crispy bacon to creamy avocado to grilled chicken breast, anchovies or a jammy boiled egg can be added. 

As far as leaves are concerned, I combine romaine and butter lettuce heads, casually slicing them just prior to serving. Since we’re welcoming in Autumn, I also added fennel – finely sliced – for a hit of aniseed sweetness to offset the bitter lettuce. For the dressing, one can get fancy with egg yolk emulsions, but I absolutely swear by my mayonnaise-based concoction that’s heavy on anchovies, lemon and black pepper. 

Since I’m the recent proud owner of that cult piece of cookware ­– the air fryer – I decided to utilize my new toy and prepare a roast chicken that could be used in a Caesar salad with bacon, croutons and anchovy dressing. The Caesar is all about quality ingredients prepared simply and so there isn’t any need for fuss with this recipe. Music to my ears, or rather my appetite!

Prep time: 15 mins /Cook time: 1.5 hours /Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 chicken (approx. 1kg)
  • 1 pack streaky bacon
  • 4-6 slices of stale ciabatta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 large fennel bulb, tops removed
  • 1-2 heads of romaine and/or butter lettuce
  • 50ml grated Parmesan 
  • 4 tablespoons of good quality mayonnaise
  • 4-6 brown anchovy fillets in oil
  • 1 lemon

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen towel. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the bird breast-side down in the air fryer and set to 180°C for 40 minutes. Once the time has passed, flip the chicken and cook for a further 20 minutes. Set the chicken aside and leave to reach room temperature. Arrange the bacon in the air fryer and cook for 15-20 minutes at 180°C or until crispy. Set the bacon aside until cool.

For the dressing, place the mayonnaise and anchovy fillets into a blender. Add in about a teaspoon of the anchovy oil and a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Grind in a little black pepper and blitz until smooth. 

For the croutons, tear the bread into a bowl and crush in the garlic clove. Drizzle over some olive oil, scatter over the rosemary leaves and season the bread with salt. Toss to combine and transfer the bread into the air fryer. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Quarter the chicken and roughly chop the breast and thigh meat and skin. Set a pot of water to boil over high heat. Once boiling, add in the eggs and cook for 7-8 minutes. Once cooked, run cold water over the eggs and peel.

To assemble the salad, roughly chop the lettuce and add to a large bowl. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to finely slice the fennel and add the slices to the lettuce. Tear the bacon into bite-sized pieces and scatter over the salad, followed by the croutons and chopped chicken. Sprinkle over the grated Parmesan and the anchovy dressing and use two spoons to lightly combine the ingredients. Dish the salad into individual bowls and top each with half a jammy egg. My Caesar salad is absolutely delicious with a chilled Chenin Blanc or lightly wooded Chardonnay.  

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