Tangy dressing, crunchy croutons, crisp romaine and perfectly sauteed chicken breast make up the perfect Caesar salad that can be made ahead and is a perfect weeknight dinner.
My mother lived my childhood on a diet. Diet Coke, The Atkins Diet, low fat everything.. And chicken breasts. Chicken breasts everywhere, all the time, forever. Not counting the occasional trip to KFC when my grandmother came to town and McDonald's chicken nuggets on my nights with my dad, I barely knew that dark meat was a thing that existed until I met my husband, and even then I stubbornly held on to breast meat for YEARS.
I don’t remember the recipe that opened my eyes to chicken thighs. I wish I did. I wish that I could hug that recipe and hold it tight because it, and I truly mean this literally, literally changed my life. Food has flavor now. My husband doesn't moan at me(much) when I tell him we're having chicken for dinner now and I happily replace breast meat with thigh meat in any recipe that calls for breast meat with one exception.
This chicken Caesar salad. I’m not sure what it is about it, but this just wouldn’t be as good with thighs. Gotta be breasts.
History Of Caesar Salad
This classic American dish was actually invented in Mexico. Tijuana to be exact. An Italian immigrant had opened Caesar’s Restaurant and Bar, and legend has it that on July 4th, 1924 the restaurant was doing such a brisk business that Cesare (Caesar) Cardini just began throwing ingredients together in a bowl and literal magic happened. Isn’t that always just the best??? But even if that story isn’t true and Caesar salad is actually the brainchild of years of meticulous planning and recipe development, I wouldn’t care. The end result is literally one of my favorite meals of all time. I’m not someone who shies away from anchovies in dishes at this point, and Caesar salad is the reason why.
If you type Ceasar Salad into google, you will find as many recipes for it as there are food bloggers (read: a metric ton). My recipe is not “classic”. In fact, very few classic recipes call for mayonnaise. But my recipe IS delicious. And really easy. And you can make it ahead. And the dressing is only better the next day. And if you’ve never made your own croutons before, I promise you you’ll be thanking me when this is all over.
Make it Ahead:
You can make all of the elements of this salad either the morning you’re going to eat it or the day before.
To make the croutons you just cut up bread (any kind will do – we’re not fancy here in Sara’s Tiny Kitchen, and I normally use just plain white bread) and toss with some olive oil, spices, salt and pepper, and then cook at a low temperature for 30 minutes until they’re dried out crispity crunchety little nuggets of bread-y goodness.
Making the dressing couldn’t be easier – you just throw all the ingredients into a blender or a food processor and blend to combine. If you don’t have either of those things you can make it in a bowl with a whisk – it’s just going to take a bit longer, and you need to be a little more careful about finely mincing the garlic.
The chicken gets seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan fried until deeply browned and cooked through.
You can then put all of these pieces of the recipe away until you’re ready for dinner at which point you just need to chop up some romaine, shred some parmesan and Bob’s your uncle. (Fun fact: Bob actually IS my uncle.)
And the beauty of this salad is that if you want to make it fancy, you can totally do that! You can use a baguette or an artisanal Italian loaf for the croutons. You can shave your parmesan. You can even looks up a recipe for a fancier more “classic” Caesar dressing. I wont mind. But no matter what recipe you use, you need to make Caesar salad part of your regular dinner rotation. You wont regret it.
2 Large Salads
Chicken Caesar Salad
- 6 slices of the white bread of your choice (I generally get an Italian loaf from the bakery section of the store)
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 teaspoons of anchovy paste (taste and adjust as you go - I tend to like it a little on the anchovy heavy side, but I totally get why some people are anti-anchovy - you could honestly leave it out entirely if that’s your jam)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 pound of chicken breasts pounded thin or chicken breast tenderloins (4 breasts, or 8 tenderloins)
- Olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 hearts of romaine
- grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350
- Cut the bread into small cubes and place on a lined baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic and onion powder, parsley and salt and pepper. Drizzle this over the bread cubes, and toss with your hands so that all of the bread is fairly evenly coated.
- Toast the bread in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crunchy.
- Set aside until ready to eat.
- Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Dry your chicken as well as you can with paper towels, and then season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
- Add chicken to pan and cook without moving for 6-9 minutes then flip the chicken breasts and cook on the other side for 7 minutes, or until both sides are deep golden brown, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, and then thinly slice.
- Chop lettuce into bite size pieces, and divide evenly between 4 bowls. Top each bowl with 1 breast or 2 tenderloins, and a handful of croutons, and then add as much dressing as you’d like.
- Top with grated parmesan cheese.
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