Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creamy Garlicky Caesar Chicken

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. – Julius Caesar 

Mmmm, garlicky. And Caesar-y.

That quote sounds like the way our current government thinks, I fear. I could go on, but I won’t. We all know how well it worked out for old Julius... This post is not about politicians, Roman or Canadian, past or present. It's about dressing.

Caesar salad is named for another Caesar – Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant restauranteur who lived in the United States. From oral history told by the family, it was invented on the 4th of July in 1924 when one of his restaurants ran low on kitchen staples.

None other than Julia Child stated she enjoyed the salad in a Cardini restaurant in the 1920s. But the earliest written documentation surviving is from a 1940s menu on which it appeared.

Marinating the chicken in the dressing is a new one for me.
I never had enough before to do it.
At the time, to add dramatic flair, the dressing ad salad was always prepared table-side and served. It still is in some places. I’ve enjoyed the spectacle myself. When it’s done right it’s fantastic.

Today there are dozens of bottled caesar salad dressing. You can even get it in “bags” in kits. The most common locally is Et Tu® Salad Kit, Caesar Original. It contains creamy Caesar dressing, croutons, Parmesan cheese and real bacon bits.

All you really do is add lettuce and off you go. Pretty easy. You can also top it with chicken, steak or even shrimp to make a light entrée.

I’m not sure where the “creamy” came into being. I know that a “real” Caesar dressing is more like a thickened vinaigrette than an all-out cream.

Regardless, those packaged kits have become a guilty pleasure – "guilty," especially when you think it’s 80 calories per 22 grams, which I imagine isn’t very much at all. Oddly the kit dressing has no Vitamins A or C, or calcium. Hmmm...

Being that we usually have chicken and bread, and now fresh romaine steps away in the garden, the only missing ingredient is the dressing itself. It sucks to have to drive the half hour into town just to get it.

So I’ve been wanting to make my own creamy caesar dressing at home for quite some time. Actually every time I buy a “store-bought” kit. It can’t be that difficult to make.

I have found out that is the case. It’s actually one of the easiest dressings I've ever made. But I do have a kitchen helper.

To purée small amounts of things I’ve been using what most of us probably think is a bit of a joke kitchen gadget – a Magic Bullet®. It really does work quite well, and has the added convenience of the “blender” being the container.

It’s a “Personal, Versatile Countertop Magician,” or so their website says. No, I’m not being paid by the company. If only I were...

Regardless, the thing works, and for small amounts of food prep – like sauces – it’s a godsend.

Wow. That’s all I could say after tasting this unbelievably easy-to-make creamy caesar dressing. You will, too, once you try it.

Since the recipe made more than enough for salad for four, I marinated the chicken with some to impart a garlicky flavour in it as well. I usually just salt, pepper, sear and then steam cook breasts for on top of my Caesar salad. Feel free to use that simpler method if you wish.

This recipe has very little preparation, is easy to cook and has loads of garlicky taste. All in all, a good recipe to know.

I find pan frying the bottom and the baking ensures that
the chicken is done all the way through.
Creamy Garlicky Caesar Chicken
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake: 30 min  |  Serves 4 
8 chicken thighs or 4 skinless, boneless breasts
Romaine leaves, torn, for 4 people
buttered croutons (optional)
for the dressing:
1 cup Kraft Miracle Whip (it does make a difference)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan (see recipe)
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste
4 garlic cloves
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch each salt and cracked black pepper
Optional: crisp bacon bits

Prepare the dressing first.

Place all the ingredients, except for the Miracle Whip and 1/2 cup of the parmesan, in a blender or small food processor. Start with 2 garlic cloves and half the citrus.

Process until smooth. Then add the Miracle Whip and process again. Taste and add the additional citrus and garlic if you prefer. You want to have a thick, garlicky sauce. 

Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the chicken in a dish. Turn to coat well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In an oven-proof skillet, fry the chicken (skin side up) until it releases from the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 180°C.

While the chicken is baking, wash and dry the romaine and tear into bite-size pieces. Toss with the croutons and the reserved parmesan.

To serve, place the chicken on top of the salad and drizzle with a little more dressing, if desired.


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