As unbelievable as it sounds: there was actually no chicken in the original Caesar Salad recipe. In fact, although the name Caesar Salad to most people means ‘chicken salad’, it is something of a misnomer: the original has been made in countless variations, the most famous of which is the one with the addition of grilled chicken breast.
So what is the original Caesar Salad recipe? This is the story.
Caesar Salad is one of the most famous salads in the world. It owes its name to the chef who invented it: the Italian Cesare Cardini, who emigrated to San Diego after the First World War. In 1924, Cesare went into business and opened his own restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, where he came up with the salad that would make his name immortal in the history of international cuisine.
There is something vaguely legendary about the creation of Caesar Salad: it is said to have been invented by Cardini to satisfy his customers one weekend when he ran out of food and prepared a salad from whatever he could find in his pantry. To create somewhat of a dramatic impression, Caesar prepared his salad directly at the table in front of his diners. The idea was so popular that, since that fortuitous weekend, people started coming to Caesar’s restaurant to enjoy his salad.
A seemingly simple and spontaneous dish: in his Caesar Salad Cardini wanted to pay homage to traditional flavours of his homeland such as Roman lettuce, Grana cheese, homemade bread and extra virgin olive oil, combining them with Anglo-Saxon tastes such as Worcestershire sauce. These were the ingredients, nothing more, nothing less.
Over the years, Caesar Salad has also evolved, becoming even richer and tastier: some have added crispy bacon, others roast chicken, others still prawns or anchovies. – in fact whatever you have can be added.
Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, all the secrets
It’s extremely easy to prepare perfectly grilled chicken breast. However, it is essential to follow a few key steps in order to obtain tender and succulent meat, and avoid it becoming dry and stringy. In our recipe for Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, we have chosen, as a first step, to quickly marinate the meat to render it tasty, tender and aromatic.
Another cornerstone of barbecuing chicken is to trigger the Maillard reaction. To ensure that our meat is grilled to perfection, we need to:
- dab the surface of the meat with kitchen roll before cooking (to avoid the risk of moisture slowing down this chemical reaction, compromising the crispiness);
- place the meat on the grill (or hotplate). Don’t pierce or turn the meat too often, wait until it is golden brown on both sides and then continue cooking at a slightly lower temperature.
- Remove the grilled chicken breast from the bbq as soon as the core temperature of the meat reaches 80°C.
Caesar Salad with grilled chicken – our recipe
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
For perfect grilled chicken:
- 1 chicken breast (approx. 800g)
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
For the Caesar Salad:
- a few heads of seasonal lettuce and radicchio (we used: valerian, red radicchio, rocket, gentile lettuce)
- a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- 1 avocado
- 100g white sliced bread
- 60g of Grana cheese
- 4 spoons of Taggiasca olives
- extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste
For the Caesar Salad Dressing:
- 8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- the juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 2 anchovies
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
For the yoghurt dressing:
- 150g Greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of apple vinegar
- the zest of 1/2 an untreated lemon
- extra virgin olive oil, salt, dill and black pepper to taste
- Start with the grilled chicken and the marinade: in a small bowl combine the extra virgin olive oil, mustard, paprika, pepper and salt; mix well. Brush the chicken breast with the marinade and leave to rest in the fridge covered with cling film for about an hour.
- Cook the chicken breast on the bbq. We recommend cooking at a high temperature, using the direct method for the first 3 to 4 minutes (to seal the meat well and roast it to perfection), and then cooking it indirectly until it reaches a core temperature of 80°C (use a cooking thermometer to check).
- While the chicken is cooking, cut the bread into 1cm cubes and toast it in a non-stick pan with a little olive oil, add salt to taste and set aside.
- Clean the lettuce and radicchio and cut into strips. Then slice the cherry tomatoes and avocado.
- As soon as it is grilled to perfection, cut the chicken breast into slices about 1 cm thick.
- Combine the vegetables, Taggiasca olives and Grana cheese flakes in a large salad bowl. Add the Caesar Salad dressing (just whisk all the ingredients together) and toss. Now add the grilled chicken and homemade croutons. Finish off with the yoghurt dressing and serve immediately. Enjoy!