Proper Chicken Caesar Salad
- 4 whole free-range or organic chicken legs, skin on
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 9 ounces), torn into thumb-sized pieces
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
- Olive oil
- 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 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve
- 1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded
With my own versions of the classics, like Caesar salad, it's not about changing things entirely; it's about respecting the original while bigging up the flavors and textures where I can. My twists for this salad are to use chicken legs (not dry old breasts!), smoky pancetta and lovely rustic croutons to suck up all the juices. It's a lovely little salad with just a hint of attitude - and it's versatile, as you can serve it hot or cold.
P.S. Use your imagination - if you have any other unusual salad leaves, flowers or herb shoots lying around, chuck some in to make it look a little less predictable.
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.
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