Grilled Chicken Caesar with Cheater Dressing

Paula: Guilty pleasure alert: I’ve rarely met a Chicken Caesar that I didn’t like. When it’s made with care and the best ingredients, the satisfying tumble of crispy romaine, grilled chicken, herbed croutons, and creamy dressing creates one of the world’s most satisfying salads.

Over the years, I’ve been on a Caesar dressing odyssey, of sorts. I’ve blended authentic, emulsified versions made from egg yolks and anchovies. I’ve doctored up store bought varieties with lemon and Parmesan. But, those dressings are never as vibrant as the ones you whisk together yourself. I finally landed on this easy, cheater version made by enriching a pungent garlic and anchovy vinaigrette (Caesar’s two characteristic flavors) with mayonnaise and Parmesan. Trust me, you’ll never buy Caesar dressing again.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of The Usual

For the Croutons:

  • Heaping 2 cups fresh bread cubes (preferably from a hearty country loaf), cut into any size you please
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

For the Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced
  • 3-4 oil-packed anchovies (as desired for fishy flavor), drained and minced
  • 1 generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of half lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

For Salad:

  • 3 hearts of romaine, or 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium fire.

Meanwhile, place the chicken breasts in a baking dish, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and season with The Usual (use your hands to evenly distribute the seasonings).

Preheat the oven to 400℉. Place the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle the herbes de Provence over the bread, crushing the herbs lightly with your fingers, and use your hands to toss the croutons until evenly coated. Transfer the bread to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 8-10 minutes, flipping once during cooking. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.

Whisk together the garlic, anchovies, Dijon, vinegar and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is emulsified. Gently whisk in the mayonnaise and Parmesan, taste and adjust seasonings with more lemon, salt, and pepper as desired. Set aside or refrigerate up to 4 hours in advance.

When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, clean and oil the grill grates. Grill the chicken over direct heat, flipping and rotating around the heat as needed for even browning, until it’s just cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Remove from heat and allow the chicken to rest 5-10 minutes.

Combine the romaine and the croutons in a mixing bowl and top with half of the dressing. Toss well, and then top with sliced chicken breasts, the remaining dressing and additional grated Parmesan.

 

Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.

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