Saturday, January 21, 2017

Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad

Last Year's Post: Shrimp and Bacon Ramen
Two Years Ago:  Eggplant and Rice Parmigiana

Everybody loves chicken Caesar salad, don't they?  The only part that's not to love is the fat and calories in a classic Caesar dressing that's typically made with lots of oil and raw egg yolks.  A slightly less authentic version uses lots of mayonnaise which gets rid of the ick factor of raw egg yolks but does nothing to help the fat and calories.  This version substitutes Greek yogurt for the oil and/or mayo.  It doesn't taste exactly like the classic version, but it's very close and very good and very much better for you.

The other way to elevate a chicken Caesar salad beyond the typical bag of salad at the grocery store is to use impeccably fresh hearts of Romaine (they tend to dry out when they're pre-chopped in the bag) and make homemade crispy bread crumbs instead of those big, hard croutons.  Add in some shaved Parmesan and you have a Caesar salad worthy of a restaurant, not a bag.

Anchovies are an important part of Caesar dressing - they give it umami, which is a nice savory taste but not at all fishy.  Even so, a tin of oily smelly fish can be off-putting, and heaven forbid your kids catch sight (or smell) of them.  The solution is to buy a tube of anchovy paste, which you'll find near canned tuna and other canned fish.  The paste isn't oily or smelly and lasts a long time in the refrigerator.  Don't tell your family, and they'll never even know they're in there.

Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad
Serves 4

For the dressing:
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste
Juice of ½ lemon
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
1 slice of stale bread (or leave a piece of fresh bread out on the counter for an hour to dry out)
½ cup shaved Parmesan

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that Parmesan is salty so go easy on the salt).  Set aside.

Rub the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook on a grill, in a pan, or in the oven until golden and fully cooked through.  Set aside to cool, then thinly slice crosswise.

Cut the end off each Romaine heart, then cut crosswise at 1” intervals.  Thoroughly wash and then drain the lettuce; pat dry.

Tear the piece of bread into large pieces, then pulse in a small food processor into coarse crumbs.  In a medium skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the crumbs, tossing to coat all the crumbs evenly.  Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat, watching closely and stirring often, until golden brown.  Remove from heat and place crumbs in a small bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.

If the dressing has been standing for a while, it will probably thicken up.  Add an additional tablespoon of water to thin to desired consistency. 

To plate the salad, toss the greens with just enough dressing to coat and divide among the plates.  Top with chicken slices, shaved Parmesan, and toasted bread crumbs.  Pass additional dressing on the side.  (Alternately, serve the dressing on the side with each salad.)

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