The food: Chicken club in lettuce leaves/Proper Chicken Caesar Salad
My two sons are home for the summer from university, and have me jumping through hoops buying and preparing meals that suit their respective special diets and my own need to eat only tasty food.
Simon is doing a low carb thing between his varsity basketball seasons, and is currently eating all his protein wrapped in Romaine lettuce leaves instead of with bread or pasta or rice. Michael has celiac disease and has his own supply of gluten-free starches to choose from, but he’s been trying out the lettuce leaf routine too. This week, we’ve gone through 3 heads of Romaine lettuce per day! Problem is, neither guy likes the small, pale inner leaves of the lettuce.
Faced with a growing pile of those inner leaves, I decided to use them to make myself a version of Jamie Oliver’s Proper Caesar Salad, a recipe that calls for lettuce, bacon, chicken roasted with rosemary over homemade croutons, and a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, jazzed up with anchovies, garlic and crème fraiche.
Since I was roasting chicken and frying bacon anyway, I made extra of both for the boys to use in a chicken club lettuce leaf creation, which they both said they preferred over the Caesar salad.
I wasn’t about to forego homemade croutons browned in chicken fat drippings, but I didn’t want to contaminate Michael’s portion of the chicken with bread crumbs, so contrary to Jamie Oliver’s instructions, I cooked the chicken first and removed it from the roasting dish when it was done.
Building on the rosemary theme, I then sliced up some Ace Bakery rosemary focaccia, and baked the croutons in the chicken fat still left in the roasting dish.
The boys loaded up their lettuce leaves with chicken, bacon, cheese, and mayo. For my salad dressing, I omitted the garlic (it disagrees with me) from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, kept the mashed anchovies, substituted yogurt for crème fraiche, and tipped the olive oil/lemon juice ratio in favour of the lemon juice. The result was good enough to drink, but instead I poured it over a plate dotted with an extravagant number of croutons, as well as some chicken, bacon, lettuce and extra grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and lapped it all up.
Jamie Oliver’s Proper Caesar Salad, Adapted
4 chicken breasts
4 thick slices rosemary focaccia bread, cubed
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
8 slices bacon
4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped fine
5-6 T. grated Parmesan (Reggiano)
3-4 T. plain yogurt (1/2 of a 175 gr. container)
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves used to feed dieting young men
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Pour 2 T. olive oil in roasting dish, add chopped rosemary. Turn chicken breasts in oil and rosemary, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes.
3. Remove chicken to plate to cool.
4. Add focaccia bread cubes to drippings in pan. Add 1 T. more olive oil if necessary. Turn bread cubes to coat. Roast in oven, turning once or twice, for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
5. Wash and spin dry lettuce leaves.
6. Fry bacon, drain, and chop into bitesize pieces.
6. Remove chicken from bone, and shred or cut into bitesize pieces.
7. Make dressing: mash chopped anchovies in bowl with a spoon (or mix all ingredients in small chopper/food processor), add lemon juice, olive oil to taste (3- 4 T.), yogurt, 2 T. grated Parmesan. Mix.
8. Tear up lettuce leaves, arrange on plate. Scatter chicken, bacon, croutons, grated Parmesan cheese on top and drizzle with dressing.