Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Et tu, chicken?

When Julius Caesar met his end on the Ides of March more than 2,000 years ago, he probably never imagined how popular he would be today. After all, when was the last time you went into a restaurant that didn’t feature a Caesar salad on the menu?

The dressing is what definies a Caesar. Simultaneously creamy and oily, it's almost a fresh-made mayonnaise with the bite of garlic, the salt of parmesan, and the deep, intangible background of anchovy. (Okay, you're probably going to want to keep that one to yourself with the picky eaters. I just write pizza recipes. I don't have a wand.)

Don't like Caesar yourself? A good parmesan peppercorn or even ranch makes gives a similar feel. And don't feel like that's a bad thing. Making substitutions is part of opening people's eyes, and tastebuds, to new things. But that doesn't mean you force the issue in areas that have already been tried and deemed "not my style."

What else makes a Caesar a Caesar? The right lettuce. You can put the dressing on anything you want, but authenticity demands Romaine. The long, straight leaves of this special green are crisp and sweet, and much easier to get kids to try than some of the bitter or spiky foliage in a spring mix.

And the chicken? It's become synonymous with Caesar, probably because its mellow, adaptable flavor and pleasant texture make it a perfect foil for the pop of the dressing.

Pile it all on a crispy, chewy pizza crust for something new in a salad staple.

Chicken Caesar Pizza

1 pizza crust

Olive oil

2 T. grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

2 c. romaine lettuce, sliced thin

1 pound cooked chicken (preferably deli roasted)

¼ c. Caesar dressing (Don’t like Caesar? Ranch works fine.)

Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place crust on baking sheet. Brush or spray with olive oil. Season with parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts and begins to brown, but not until crust is too crunchy to cut. Cool.

In a bowl, toss lettuce and chicken with dressing until lightly coated. Pile on crust. Garnish with more parmesan and parsley. Slice and serve.


It’s NOT imperial! – While Caesar salad was first popularized in Hollywood’s Golden Age, and for years was only available at restaurants with a dress code, it isn’t a dish with royal roots. Italian immigrant Caesar Cardini created the dish in 1924 for his Tijuana, Mexico, restaurant, catering to those crossing the border to have a little wine with dinner during Prohibition. The dish was known for its theatrical value, since it was prepared at the table, but that just makes it the perfect dish for entertaining today. Doesn’t everyone always end up in the kitchen anyway? (Source:

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