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Weekend Chef: grilled Caesar salad

Posted 1:29pm on Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013

My wife has been after me for some time to fix a salad and, you know… eat a little healthier than my usual “things wrapped in bacon” meals that I have been known to fix. Plus I have been reaching a bacon and meat saturation point eating burgers for our burger bracket here on DFW.com. So I decided to go ahead and fix a Caesar Salad… and this time with NO bacon. But that does not mean I can’t still have a little fun with this thing and grill the romaine lettuce. So lets make a salad!

For me, the key to a good salad is the dressing. My wife likes to get her dressing on the side and do little dips with the salad on her fork, trying to get the perfect ratio of green stuff to dressing. I tend to just pour it on thick till that green stuff stops tasting like weeds. In either case, a good dressing helps. I like making a variation of a classic Caesar dressing that is heavy on the garlic and anchovies. If that is not your thing, just cut back or leave out the garlic and anchovies. This dressing is also great to use as seasoning on bread to make croutons and as marinade for grilled chicken breast.

For the green part of the salad I am grilling some romaine hearts that were cut in half and brushed with olive oil and lemon juice. I know, it sounds strange, but romaine can actually take the heat! A couple of minutes on a hot grill and the romaine takes on a sweet char flavor from sugars released by grilling, adding a whole new dimension to its flavor and texture.

I also grilled up a couple of chicken breast (marinade in the dressing) to make this a grilled chicken Caesar salad with homemade croutons.

Chicken Caesar Salad with Grilled Romaine Hearts

Caesar dressing

  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 raw egg, I like using a pasteurized egg
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, chopped
  • 1 to 1½ cups olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (around 1 teaspoon each)

Cooking Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except olive oil into a measuring cup or bowl.

  2. Add 1 cup of olive oil.

  3. Use stick blender (or blender) to blend/emulsify the mixture into a dressing consistency, if too thick, add more oil.
  4. Refrigerate dressing, this can be fixed a couple of days ahead.

Croutons

Ingredients

  • ½ loaf day old French bread
  • 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice bread into 1-inch cubes.

  2. Add all ingredients except bread into a large bowl and whisk together, then add bread cubes and mix till the bread is evenly coated with the dressing mixture.

  3. Preheat oven or grill to 325ºF. Distribute bread cubes onto a baking sheet or grill basket.

  4. Bake for 20 minutes in oven or on the grill, turning bread cubes once, then pull and let cool.

Grilled chicken

Ingredients, for each chicken breast

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon Caesar dressing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except chicken into a large bowl and whisk together, then add chicken breast. Evenly coated chicken with the dressing mixture.

  2. Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 hours.

  3. Preheat grill to 400ºF. Grill chicken breast 10 minutes a side or until the breast read 160ºF on an instant read thermometer.

  4. Let chicken breast rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Ingredients, for each romaine heart

(serve ½ a romaine heart per person)

  • 1 romaine heart
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup Caesar dressing
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut romaine heart in half length-wise, and then mix the lemon juice and olive oil together in small bowl and brush onto all sides of the romaine.

  2. Preheat grill to 400ºF. Grill romaine hearts cut-side down for 2 to 3 minutes (or until you see char marks), then flip and grill 2 or 3 minutes on the other side.
  3. Serve romaine hearts plated cut side up, top with dressing, sliced chicken, croutons and Parmesan cheese.

Wow, this is one tasty salad! The sweet char flavor from grilling the romaine really comes through. The dressing has a nice punch and my wife could not stop eating the croutons. This is a great summer dish and a nice alternative from grilling burgers and hot dogs. Be sure to check out the step-by-step pictures in the slideshow above the story.

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