Having grown up in generation Earls, I’ve always been a fan of the chicken Caesar.
Even so, it’s not the sort of thing I generally make at home. But I saw a technique years ago in which chicken was roasted atop chunks of bread to produce croutons infused with chicken drippings – which is essentially those crispy bits of stuffing you pick at and eat yourself as the turkey comes out of the oven, which is the very best part of Thanksgiving dinner. And you wind up with a whole sheet of it.
So in this salad, which I learned from one J.O., you roast the chicken and the croutons together, which makes sense time-wise but also makes them spectacularly delicious, then lay a few strips of bacon over the lot to up the ante, pull and chop up the lot and scatter it over a platter of crunchy romaine, then douse it all in garlicky dressing and Parmesan. A proper Caesar salad it is.
Rather than set this up as a recipe per se, I’m going to walk you through how I did it, because measurements here aren’t too important.
I used chicken thighs – much more flavourful than breasts – but J used chicken drumsticks, which I figured wouldn’t be meaty enough. On the upside, they do cook through a little more quickly.
Preheat your oven to 400F. Get a big, rimmed baking sheet and spread out cubes of good crusty bread, like ciabatta. Add chicken thighs to the pan and drizzle everything generously with olive oil. Toss it about with your hands to coat everything, then spread out the bread cubes and place the chicken on top. If you like, tuck in a few sprigs of rosemary.
Bake for about 40 minutes, taking the pan out and rearranging everything at some point if you feel like it, and then lay a few strips of bacon over everything and return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes or so, until everything is nicely crisped up and the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, fill a large platter (or as many plates as you have people eating) with torn or chopped Romaine (I added a few chopped leaves of kale too), and mix up a Caesar dressing: I like to do this by dolling up some good mayo with lemon juice, garlic, a squeeze of anchovy paste if you’re into it, and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Top the lettuce with torn or chopped chicken, bacon and croutons, and drizzle with creamy dressing. Eat outside, if it’s not raining.