CHICKEN OR SALMON CAESAR SALAD

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Caesar salad is a classic for one very good reason. It is flat out delicious. And when you make it at home using fresh ingredients, it is especially delightful. And I know Caesar salad appears on just about every menu in America. So why (you ask yourself) should anyone bother making it at home, when it can so easily be ordered in a restaurant. Well my dear friends, the answer to that question is easy; because you can make it even better and healthier at home.

When you build your own Caesar salad you control the amount of salt in the dressing, the ratio of dressing to romaine, how much Parmesan to add, and the amount, if any, of croutons you want to use. Of course you won’t be ingesting any of the preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients from the bottled dressing and purchased croutons a restaurant uses, but I’m betting that’s not going to worry you too much!

Now for some people who want to just eat a big old salad for lunch or dinner, but would like to add some protein, the addition of chicken or salmon is the perfect solution. Most of the time when Caesar salad is offered in a restaurant, the chicken is grilled or the salmon is blackened. Both of these preparations are wonderful. But instead of the more traditional way of cooking the chicken or salmon, I like to bake it. I find that the meat is routinely moist when I bake it in a hot oven. Then just before serving, I slice or dice (the chicken) or place the whole salmon fillet right on top of the mixed salad. Serve with a lemon wedge or two, and as they say in jolly old England – Bob’s your uncle!

BTW: I provided my two favorite recipes for Caesar salad dressing below. Both are truly wonderful. I simply prepare one or the other depending on the ingredients I have on hand and whichever dressing appeals to my capricious taste buds at the time. However you dress this salad, you are in for a taste treat.

Also, every part of this salad can be prepared ahead of time. The lettuce can be cleaned and kept in the refrigerator a couple days before it is needed. The dressing can be prepared up to 4 days ahead. Grate the Parmesan at your leisure and just pull it out of the refrigerator when needed. The croutons can be made a week ahead as long as they are completely cool when you place them in an airtight container. And even the chicken or salmon can be prepared ahead of time. Just make sure it is room temperature before it is served.

  • romaine lettuce, cut, washed and spun dry (you really want to start with dry lettuce so that the dressing adheres to each leaf)
  • Caesar dressing (just enough to coat the leaves, but not so much that the salad appears and tastes “wet”)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (I have found that using less than you think you need is probably just about right. Too much Parmesan overpowers the other flavors and makes the salad too rich.)
  • croutons (as few or as many as you like)
  • sliced or cubed chicken or a small fillet of salmon
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges

CAESAR DRESSING

  • 1 lg. garlic clove, finely minced
  • 6 anchovy fillets or 1-2 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3 T. sour cream
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil

Combine garlic and anchovy fillets or paste in a small bowl. Mush them together with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to blend thoroughly. Use immediately or refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before mixing salad.

CREAMY CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

  • 1 T. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ tsp. anchovy paste, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • scant ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese

Place mayonnaise, mustard, chopped garlic, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of an electric food processor. Process until smooth and well blended. While the food processor is still on, very slowly pour in the vegetable oil. Blend until thick and creamy. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse 5 or 6 times.

GARLIC CROUTONS

Chop up some small bite sized pieces of a chewy, artisan baguette. Place in a frying pan with butter or olive oil (or a combination) and sauté until each crouton is dry and crunchy. (This takes about 45 minutes because you need to go low (heat) and slow.) Add more butter or oil as needed. When desired crunchiness is attained, sprinkle with granulated garlic. Allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container.

SAVORY BAKED CHICKEN OR SALMON – based on an Ina Garten recipe

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for basting
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 T. dry white wine
  • zest and juice of 1 regular sized lemon
  • pinch dried oregano
  • pinch dried thyme leaves
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 2 salmon fillets

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and just a small amount of black pepper. Pour into a 9×9-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts or salmon fillets dry and place them over the sauce. (If you are using a piece of salmon that has skin on one side, place the fish skin side up in the sauce.) Brush with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts or fillets. Do not over-cook. (Remember, salmon cooks faster than chicken, so set your timer accordingly.) Remove the cooked meat from the oven and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil; allow to rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing, dicing or serving whole over the prepared salad. (Remember to take the skin off the salmon before serving.) For the final touch, I like to drizzle a little bit of the baking sauce over the meat. Yum

 

 

 

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks