In the days when I worked at Hampton Court Palace, I can remember visiting Blubeckers in East Molesey with my friend Didaskalos (which was his online nickname and yes, he was a teacher) and eating Chicken Caesar Salad there. I would choose the salad because I knew I would spend the whole lunchtime laughing - and it was the easiest thing to eat, in the circumstances.
Times change and things move on, to where I discovered that Sainsbury's were producing a Caesar Salad kit - and still are, to the best of my knowledge - which held the best Caesar dressing to be found. I have no idea where they got it from, nor why they couldn't sell it in bottles, as every bottled Caesar dressing just didn't measure up. I still have yet to find a bottled Caesar dressing that equates to Sainsbury's kit version. The best one, so far, is Brianna's Homestyle Caesar Dressing - although it is just a tad too cheesy (I know, odd concept, eh?) for my liking.
For last night's Caesar Salad, however, I resolved to have a crack at making my own dressing. You can imagine how much it had to live up to! However, I am pleased to report that the dressing detailed below is not only better than Sainsbury's kit one, but it makes huge great lakes of the stuff (which is why you'll see our salad is a bit over-dressed) which bodes well for further salads in the week.
I was dubious about including the pinch of chilli flakes, about including greek yoghurt and about the raw garlic (knowing how prone I am to getting the garlic-itchies!). The pinch of chilli flakes just appeared to amalgamate into the whole dressing experience somewhat seamlessly, but I fully expect if you don't include them - you'd notice it. The greek yoghurt added to the creaminess but without making the dressing heavy. I can imagine that seven tablespoons of mayonnaise would have been icky in the extreme. As for the garlic - although there was garlic included in every inch of the salad, I escaped the garlic itchies! There you are, you see - you just never know.
Another really good thing about making your own dressing is the anchovies. Four for the dressing - and one for me. Maybe another one for the dressing - and one for me. Better have another one before I wrap the remainder in cling film, to put in the fridge. Love anchovies!
The chicken was dealt with really simply. I trimmed it up and put the three breasts into a bowl with lemon juice, thyme, salt & pepper and olive oil. Onto a roasting tin and 25 minutes later in a hot oven, they're done.
Hubby was in charge of the croutons, as he'd made a loaf of bread especially with them in mind. He sliced the bread thickly and rubbed it over with garlic. Then removed the crusts and cut it into lovely big croutons. Then into a bowl with dried herbs - chives, basil, oregano and thyme plus olive oil. Toss out onto the oven tray and into a hot oven for 5 minutes, turn them over and sprinkle with salt, back in for another 5 minutes, turn and salt and back in for a final 5 minutes. Out onto some kitchen paper to drain and bingo! You've got your croutons. Mmmmmn, I could have eaten them with a lovely glass of wine, never mind in the salad!
CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD (Serves 3 with extra dressing)
Ingredients for the chicken :3 skinless boneless chicken breast fillets
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 garlic clove finely chopped.
Ingredients for the croutons :
3 slices white crusty bread
quarter tsp dried chives
half tsp dried basil
half tsp dried oregano
half tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Ingredients for the dressing :
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
good pinch chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
3 tbsp good-quality mayonnaise (Hellman's is good)
4 tbsp plain greek yoghurt.
Ingredients for the salad :
1 head Iceberg or Romaine/Cos lettuce (choice to suit you), leaves separated, washed and dried
25g piece Parmesan cheese, finely grated.
1. Chicken : place the juice, oil, thyme and garlic in a shallow dish. Add the chicken and turn it over in the marinade to coat well. Season with freshly ground pepper and leave for up to 2 hrs.
2. Salad : Keep any small inner lettuce leaves whole, tear the larger outer leaves into 2-3 pieces, then put them all into a large bowl full of ice cold water with 6-7 ice cubes.
3. Croutons : Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
4. Croutons : Slice, then cut the bread into big, rough cubes for the croutons. Then put into a bowl with the herbs plus pepper and olive oil. Toss until completely covered, then out onto a baking tray and into the hot oven for 5 minutes, turn them over and sprinkle with salt, back in for another 5 minutes, turn and salt and back in for a final 5 minutes. Out onto some kitchen paper to drain, and reserve.
5. Chicken : Place the chicken onto a baking tray, then into the oven for 25-30 minutes. When done, leave to cool slightly then slice.
6. Dressing : Meanwhile, put the garlic into a mini blender with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chilli, anchovies, mayonnaise and yogurt, then blend until smooth - it should be the consistency of double cream. Adjust the taste with lemon juice and pepper.
7. Salad : Drain the lettuce and spin to dry. Place into a large bowl and pour just under half the dressing over the leaves. Add the parmesan and carefully toss to coat - it's gentler to use your hands. Pile the leaves onto individual plates, tucking in the croutons and chicken. Drizzle the rest of the dressing over and around, then finish with an extra squeeze of lemon.