Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My "deconstructed" chicken Caesar salad...

...with a delicious tahini dressing

Every other Monday I like nothing better than stripping all the leftover meat from the Sunday roast chicken and turning it into another meal. I am constantly surprised that not everybody does this regularly: I can guarantee you that even a carcass that looks "done" will yield at least another good handful of lovely meat if you "go at it" with your fingers or a small knife. (My late mother was the undisputed master of this art though: the image of her hunched over the massive annual Christmas goose carcass armed only with a tiny, flimsy post-war tin knife with which, over the course of a good few days, she would flay away at the bird with the precision of a micro-surgeon until she deemed it finished“ (by which time it looked as if it had been stripped clean by a family of the hungriest vultures EVER) will stay with me forever...) But what to do with your harvested treasures? In my kitchen they either end up in my lovely chicken, leek and tarragon pies - or in this salad with THE MOST delicious (and easy) Eastern Mediterranean dressing (based on a recipe by my food hero Silvena Rowe):

I ADORE tahini paste and can often be found eating "just a few spoonfuls" straight out of the jar, and as much as I love a classic Caesar salad I often find the mayo-anchovy dressing too claggy and cloying, so this is just perfect! I usually just combine all the salad ingredients and drizzle them with the dressing, but when I found a recipe in a German food magazine where the parmesan had been turned into crisp little "baskets" I just KNEW I had to give this a try - and they were gorgeous (and fit for any dinner party with just a teeny-tiny bit more work):

130-150g parmesan cheese, grated
 a few slices of slightly stale bread/a length of baguette (crusts removed)
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 handfuls of (white) chicken meat, shredded or cubed*
1 romaine lettuce or 2 baby gem lettuces, broken or cut into pieces
1/2 bunch of spring onions, sliced finely
1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes

2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp plain yogurt (or low-fat mayonaise - or a mix of both)
2 tbsp tahini paste**
1 garlic clove, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200°C/175° fan oven. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Divide the parmesan into 4 equal amounts and scatter into 4 ca 15 cm circles on the baking tray (I used the ring of a 15 cm springform tin for this - just lift it up and use again for the next circle). Bake for approx. 10 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile gather 4 small(ish) bowls (with a flat base of ca 8 cm diameter). Take the parmesan circles out of the oven and drape them over the bowls IMMEDIATELY while they are still warm and pliable, pressing the edges down gently. Let cool and remove from the bowls.
To make the croutons, cut the bread into 2 cm cubes. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and fry gently until golden brown and crunchy, shaking the pan frequently.
Place the lettuce in the parmesan baskets, then add the chicken, avocado, spring onions and croutons.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together, adding a few tbsp of water if it's too thick*** and drizzle over the salads.

I always boil up the (stripped) carcass together with the other leftover bones with a few carrots, onions, bay leaves and peppercorns and let it simmer for a few hours. The strained stock then goes into the freezer as a base for soup - lovely!
*You can, of course, use poached, grilled or shop-bought chicken breasts or pieces for this recipe.
**Sometimes the oil separates from the (heavier) tahini mass in the jar - just shake it vigorously for a while to combine the two elements.
***Do taste the dressing as you go along and add more yogurt/mayo, lemon or tahini if you wish.
The dressing is also delicious on other vegetable salads!


  1. chicken caesar salad is my favorite!! and i have a hard time finding great ones here in brussels. saving this recipe! so, thank you! ;)

  2. Haha I LOVE the image of your mum hunching over a chicken carcass. Good for her! ;) This salad looks awesome, I love the cheesy bowl!