I love Caesar salad and I love its origins. A quick look on Wikipedia attributes the salad to Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who owned restaurants in the US and Mexico in the early part of the last century. The salad was invented in 1924 when a Fourth of July rush depleted the kitchen supplies and Cardini made do with whatever he had in stock – with the chef theatrically tossing the salad at the diners’ table.
With croutons and Romaine or Cos lettuce this is such a beautifully fresh, crisp and crunchy salad. It’s cheap, it’s healthy and the tangy dressing turns it into something a bit special.
My recipe here includes (free range) chicken thighs – enough to turn what is traditionally a starter into a main course. I’ve used shop bought mayonnaise as the basis of the dressing (rather than making my own mayonnaise) but for the croutons I’ve used my own leftover foccacia which I’ve cut into cubes. You could use Ciabatta or any bread which is a bit passed its best.
These quantities are about right for one person for a main, or two for a starter. Adjust quantities as you like.
2 x free range chicken thighs (plus a small amount of olive oil for cooking)
1 x Cos or Romaine lettuce (I have used a red Cos)
1 tin of anchovies
Leftover foccacia for the croutons – cubed (and olive oil for cooking). Alternatively you could use Ciabatta or similar bread
1 heaped tablespoon of shop bought mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Two anchovies from the tin
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and ground pepper
1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade to cook the chicken. If the chicken has skin there’s no need to add olive oil. If they are skinned then coat them with a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 20/25 minutes until cooked.
2. Towards the end of the chicken cooking, and while the oven is still hot, coat the cubes of bread in enough oil to cover the surfaces. Sprinkle generously with pepper and add salt to taste – I am careful with extra salt for this salad as the anchovies are salty. Bake for 5 – 10 minutes until crispy – keep a close eye on the croutons as they can burn very quickly. You might need to turn the croutons – I only ever do this roughly (doesn’t have to be that precise).
3. Make the dressing by crushing the garlic clove (I use a pestle and mortar) with two of the anchovies. Add to the mayonnaise and mix in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper. You don’t need extra salt as the anchovies are salty anyway. Taste and adjust ingredients as required. You want quite a loose consistency – so add more lemon juice or a bit of olive oil if necessary.
4. Build the salad by laying the lettuce leaves on a platter or in a salad bowl. Add some sliced or chunked chicken, the anchovies, croutons, and shavings of parmesan. Finally add the salad dressing, or for a really authentic effect, toss the salad at the table.