I understand that you can buy a slightly translucent, white and artificial Caesar salad dressing in most supermarkets, but please make NO comparison with that nonsense to what I’m writing about below. You may be weird about anchovies, you may be weird about raw egg – I don’t care. You must trust me when I say that this dressing is absolutely sensational and will truly blow your idea of a good Caesar salad out of the water. Just give it a go.
I hadn’t even considered making my own Caesar dressing before, or having a Caesar salad at home at all, in fact, until a friend suggested it. I never buy the bottled stuff because I just don’t like it, and I know it’s filled with rubbish. But now I know, that isn’t how it’s meant to be. As a huge lover of salty, tangy flavours and crunchy textures, this salad is where it’s at. This is a salad of bits. Crunchy bits, tangy bits, bacon bits… The reason I like layering it in whole, large leaves is that you get a boatful of crispy, tangy bits in each mouthful. You know what, just dump your knife and fork and grab a leaf with your hands. This is not a dainty salad. This is a hardcore salad that you tuck into, hands first (face first) and you will want to eat over and over again.
I have made this recipe to my taste, with the tang-levels that suit me (and my loved ones, it seems) but please feel free to adjust to suit your taste – for example more or less lemon juice, less garlic or even more if you’re so inclined. Taste along the way and enjoy.
Chicken Caesar Salad with bacon & homemade dressing
Quantities: Serves 4
Timings: 30 mins
Kitchen Stuff: Large non-stick frying pan, whisk, strong knife, baking tray, griddle pan
2 large chicken breasts
5 smoked bacon rashers
1/2 cup parmesan shavings (using a cheese scraper, scrape off swirls or lengths from the parmesan)
2-3 large slices of day old sourdough or crusty bloomer (ciabatta also works well)
Olive oil for drizzling
1/2 tsp garlic granules (optional)
15g butter (1 heaped tsp)
1 bag rocket leaves (75g)
2 romaine lettuce hearts
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
6 anchovy filets in olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks
juice of one lemon (or 2.5tbsp lemon juice)
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil
2 tbsp (30ml) cold pressed rapeseed oil *
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
4 heaped tbsp grated parmesan (15g when grated)
*note – if you don’t have any rapeseed oil, replace with more vegetable oil – but it does add a lovely flavour and colour if you do have it.
1. OVEN: Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C (390F) for the croutons.
2. THE DRESSING: Use a large, strong knife here so you can use the knife to help you mash the ingredients together – Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves and mash them together with the 1/4tsp (or large pinch) of sea salt until it makes a paste. Finely chop the 6 anchovy filets and mush them together with the garlic paste, using your knife to scrape the ingredients together, until it is all quite smooth.
3. WHISK: Move your mushed ingredients into a medium sized bowl and mix in the 1 tsp dijon mustard and two egg yolks then finally the lemon juice. Whisk well so it’s all blended. Whilst continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in your olive oil, followed by the rapeseed oil and vegetable oil, until you have a thick, smooth and glossy dressing. Mix in the 4 tbsp grated parmesan. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt (you may find you don’t need more salt as there is a lot in there already, so taste first).
4. CROUTONS: Tear your bread into small chunks (tearing is better than cutting as you get more crispy nooks to catch the dressing). Spread the chunks on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. If you have garlic granules in the cupboard, sprinkle over a 1/2 tsp. Scrunch the croutons with your hands until they are all coated in olive oil, and put in the hot oven for 12-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Toss half way through.
5. BACON & CHICKEN: Chop up the bacon rashers and fry in a non-stick hot pan until crispy. Cut the chicken into small strips and set aside. Heat a griddle pan (or another frying pan if you don’t have one) on a high heat and add about 15g butter. When the butter has melted, add the chicken strips, toss in the butter, then arrange them on the griddle pan to crisp up. When they are golden brown on the underside, turn the strips over. Fry until golden on both sides and cooked through in the middle.
6. LAYER THE LEAVES: Whilst the chicken and bacon are frying, wash your romaine hearts and separate the leaves. On a large, wide baking dish or serving platter, lay out some rocket leaves and drizzle with a small amount of dressing. Top the rocket with whole romaine leaves and drizzle with some more dressing. Top the leaves with some bacon bits, chicken strips, crispy croutons and some parmesan shavings. Drizzle on a little more dressing. Repeat the process with one more layer and top with a generous amount of dressing (there will be some left for people to help themselves to if necessary)
7. EAT: Eat immediately, or don’t layer and dress the salad until your guests arrive. Enjoy!