Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rustic Chicken Caesar Salad

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver's.

With one's own versions of the classics, like Caesar salad, it's not about changing things entirely, it's about respecting the original recipe while enhancing the flavors and textures where you can. Jamie's twists for this salad are to use chicken legs, not breasts (which tend to be dry), smoky pancetta and crusty, rustic croutons to suck up all the juices. This is a fabulous rendition of a classic salad with just a hint of attitude...and it's versatile, as you can serve it hot or cold.

Use your imagination, if you have any other unusual salad leaves, edible flowers or herbs lying around, throw some in to make it a little less predictable.

4 whole free-range or organic chicken legs, skin on
1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 9 oz), cut or torn into 1" cubes
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 thin slices pancetta or bacon
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 oz can of anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained (or I like to add the oil to the EVOO for the dressing)
3 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve
1 heaping TBSP creme fraiche
1 lemon, juiced
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded

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 slightly 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*. Put the pan into the preheated oven.  Baste chicken and croutons* with juices and/or olive oil frequently.

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 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 can use 2 forks to do this, or your hands 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. Top with some Parmesan shavings.

*I found it's best not to have the croutons placed under the chicken as those turned out soggy.  Next time I would add the croutons during the last 30 minutes of roasting the chicken because some of them became a little too crispy and crunchy.

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