I'm not a Caesar Salad kind of girl. I don't like crutons (I know, I know! Who am I???). I hate creamy dressings. I prefer my salad under dressed, and am the typical New York City "dressing on the side" kind of girl.
But something in me changed when I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver at Home. In it, Jamie took the crusty old Caesar salad to a whole new level. You won't find any dry old chicken breast, clunky dressing, or crusty crutons in this salad. Oh no. Here, Jaime roasts chicken legs on top of torn up ciabatta bread (which creates the most wonderful, flavorful cruton you will ever taste), a proper caesar salad dressing (with anchovies! Don't be scared!), lots of rosemary, and some pancetta (I used bacon) to round it all out.
What you get is an unbelievably dynamic and rustic Caesar salad. Moist chicken, smoky flavors from the pancetta (bacon), crutons that are both crisp and moist at the same time and packed with flavor, and an deliciously flavorful dressing that amps up the entire experience.
You have not lived until you have eaten this salad. Seriously. Everything up until this point has been a dream. You're actually not even reading this post right now.
Proper Chicken Caesar Salad adapted from Jamie at Home
4 chicken legs, skin on
1 loaf ciabatta bread
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 thin slices pancetta or bacon
1/4 clove peeled garlic
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
3 oz freshly shaved Parmesan, plus extra for topping
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
1 lemon, juiced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the chicken legs in a snug-fitting roasting pan with the pieces of torn-up bread. Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to make sure everything is well coated, then lift the chicken legs up to the top, so they sit above the bread. This way, the bread will soak up all the lovely juices from the chicken, giving you the best croutons! Pop the pan into the preheated oven.
After 45 minutes the chicken should be nicely cooked. Take the pan out of the oven, drape the pancetta or bacon over the chicken and croutons, and put back for another 15 to 20 minutes for everything to crisp up. The chicken legs are ready when you can pinch the meat off the bone easily. When they're cooked, remove the pan from the oven and set it aside for the chicken to cool down slightly.
Pound the garlic and anchovy fillets in a pestle and mortar or a Flavor Shaker until you have a pulp. Scrape into a bowl and whisk in the Parmesan, creme fraiche, lemon juice and 3 times as much extra-virgin olive oil as lemon juice. Season dressing, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Pull the chicken meat off the leg bones - you can use 2 forks to do this, or your hands if you're tough like me - and tear it up roughly with the croutons and the bacon. Wash, spin dry and separate the lettuce leaves, tear them up and toss with the chicken, croutons, bacon and creamy, cheesy dressing. Scatter with some Parmesan shavings.