Tonight my hot gf is making a grilled chicken Caesar salad. After a summer of overeating she would like to start September off healthy. She begins by chopping some garlic for the dressing and to rub on the bread for croutons she is making. I stand nearby slicing a block of Havarti for the Pretzel Crisps I’m eating, pestering her with questions.
“What kind of cheese is Havarti?” I ask.
“It’s kind of like cheddar,” she replies.
“What do you use it for?”
“Grate it on my salads, melting, whatever.”
“Why do you use Havarti and not cheddar?”
“I don’t know, I get whatever I’m in the mood for. I’m a cheese person,” she responds in a way that suggests dropping the matter. I watch as she attempts to squeeze the juice out of a lemon using the top of a cheese grater. “I need a juicer,” she complains.
“You don’t have a juicer? Are you serious?” I inquire emphatically.
“How do you not have a juicer? I’m really surprised by this,” I continue while she struggles to juice the lemon with the grater. “I feel like that’s one thing you would have. I’ll ask my mom if she has an extra or get you one.”
“Ok,” she mutters despondently.
After eating enough Pretzel Crisps and Havarti to spoil my appetite, I close the box before reopening it to eat a few more. “I’m going to put the cheese away. Do you have a specific way you wrap it?”
“I use foil,” she responds.
“Why do you use foil?”
“I like foil, and use it for many things,” she replies.
“I’m going to use a plastic baggie if it’s ok with you. It’s less expensive, takes less time to decompose, and you can see what’s been wrapped,” I state diplomatically, knowing she is fully aware of my conservative stance on foil use. She’s not happy about this but is too preoccupied with prepping dinner to put up a fight. Eventually, she takes a seat next to me on the couch. It begins raining and she’s apprehensive about using the grill. I tell her I think it will be fine as I peer out the window. She looks up the weather on her iPad to confirm for herself if it will be okay before deciding we’ll move forward with grilling.
“I’ve got to clean the grill,” she states.
“I can do it,” I reply confidently.
“It’s ok,” she responds, getting up.
“No. I’m telling you I’m going to do it,” I dictate. “Just give me two minutes,” I state as I pick my laptop back up. There are still some things I do to affirm my manhood. Lighting the grill is one of them.
She goes into the kitchen and comes back, placing the grill lighter and a plastic grocery bag on the couch next to me. I stand up, grab the grill lighter and move towards the stairs before she stops me.
“The bag is for you to remove the old coals,” she instructs.
I reluctantly grab the bag and walk up the steps, stuffing it in my pocket along the way. When I get to the deck, I open the Weber lid and use the grill brush to push the old coals around enough for any loose clumps and dust to fall off. Then I open a new bag of coals and dump half the bag on. I spend about 15 minutes trying to get a flame going when she comes up and asks if I removed the old coals.
“No—it’ll be fine,” I interject, with one flicker of a flame offering my only glimmer of hope.
“It doesn’t seem like it,” she remarks.
“So I’ll put some more coals on!” I retort, frustrated.
As I’m doing this, the flame builds up and nearly catches the bag on fire. I’m worried one of the coals has lit up inside and is going catch the whole deck on fire. I nonchalantly put the bag down and pretend everything is fine. Luckily my gf does not seem to notice, as she is too busy informing me all the reasons I did not light the grill properly.
“Did you google ‘lighting coals’?” she demands.
I ignore her as she goes on assuring me that even if the new coals light the old ones will inhibit the flame. I ask her if she googled this and she says “no, but feels like she’s right.” l agree with her, but assure her it’s too late. I keep pushing the coals around in an effort to form a pyramid while she orders me to “stop messing with it” before heading back inside. As soon as the flame seems sustainable, I go in and tell her “it’s all good”. I’m nauseous from all the coal smoke I’ve inhaled and lie down.
Chef’s note: I did decide to google this and I was right. Note the 4th point on this link from trusty Weber http://help.weber.com/faqs/34/my-charcoal-wont-stay-lit-what-could-be-wrong.
When I return to the deck, she is putting the chicken on. She leaves to grab the other ingredients while I hang out watching the grill start to smoke uncontrollably. Using the lid to block my face, I flip the chicken right before she returns.
Chef’s note: Before putting anything on the grill, make sure the grates are sprayed with non-stick spray, which Vinnie often forgets to do.
“Why’s it so smoky? Did you flip the chicken?” she inquires.
“Yeah. And I don’t know,” I mutter, knowing full well it’s the 40 extra coals I piled atop old ones. Her sister comes up before she can reprimand me any further.
“Hope your ready for some extra smoky grilled chicken!” I enthusiastically remark.
“Why is it extra smoky?” she asks with a hint of annoyance.
“The, uh, grill master didn’t—” I pause to look over at my gf who is busy prepping the salad, “—follow the chef’s instructions.” I can tell by her sister’s facial expression she isn’t surprised.
The grill is still smoking and my hot gf is worried the bread for the croutons is going to burn. She takes everything off.
“It’s already done?” I inquire.
“It’s nearly done,” she replies, starting to cut the bread.
Chef’s note: I do not use a meat thermometer but instead use the old “cut inside the chicken to see if it’s done” technique. I take mine off when it is a very pale pink, because it will continue cooking for a few minutes after it is removed from the heat. This way ensures it will be moist and not overcooked.
“What about the lettuce?” her sister asks.
“I need to grill the lettuce,” she responds amidst having trouble slicing the bread, “I’m going to need a cutting board.” She walks off as I’m left in awe over the idea of grilling the lettuce.
Chef’s note: You might not think to grill lettuce – I didn’t until I read about it, but it adds just the right amount of smokiness without completely wilting your dinner. Romaine is not my favorite lettuce, but for this dish it is just perfect and I wouldn’t recommend anything else.
When she returns, she uses a brush to coat the lettuce with her homemade dressing and throws it on the grill. The flames to rise up and she comes back to the table to finish chopping up the croutons. Moments later she flips the lettuce moments later before taking. Then she chops this up too and puts it in her big wooden bowl. She begins chopping the rest of the ingredients: the grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, and basil, which catches my eye.
“Basil? That’s a little surprise in there, eh?” I state as if I’m some Caesar-salad connoisseur.
“My biggest issue with Caesar is it doesn’t have the ‘freshness’ that a regular mixed green salad has,” she replies.
Chef’s note: I am a salad fanatic, and I do love a good Caesar, but I think the addition of the tomatoes and basil gives the recipe a fresh feel standard Caesar salad misses.
While shredding the cheese, she slices her finger. I offer to get her a Band-Aid but she hangs in there telling me she’s “done anyway”. She starts pouring the dressing on.
“Your take on dressing too?” I ask, noticing it’s green color.
“Not really,” she responds.
“It’s green!” her sister objects.
“Oh yeah! I added basil to that too,” she laughs.
The salad is now complete. She digs into it and starts filling our bowls. I’m eager to taste it. “I like the cheese,” I tell her.
“Parmesan? Yeah, it’s a good cheese. It might be the best cheese,” she states.
“Ever?” her sister asks skeptically.
“Hmm…” she ponders, raising her eyebrows, in a tone that implies “yes”.
Mixed with this salad, I couldn’t agree more—it sure was tasty!
Everything Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
- 2 chicken breasts
- 4 cloves garlic - or 3 large cloves
- 1/2-cup olive oil (extra Virgin - EVOO)
- 1 tbsp. anchovy paste or 2 diced anchovies
- juice and zest of 1 lemon (if the lemon isn’t that soft you will need 1 and a half)
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed and sliced down the middle
- 4 slices of good sandwich style Italian bread (or 2 thick slices of a bread like ciabatta)
- 1/4 cup thin sliced Parmesan cheese
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- basil for garnish
- 1 tsp. garlic powder (not an exact measurement)
- salt, pepper
- a few dashes of Tabasco
- Make the Caesar dressing - in a blender (I used my Nutribullet) combine 2 garlic cloves, the EVOO, zest and juice of 1 lemon (or 1.5 if needed), a couple of basil leaves, anchovy paste, salt, pepper, garlic powder and hot sauce. Mix until well blended. Note: go light on the salt as anchovies are quite salty.
- Get your grill ready - you can have your SO help with this but if he is not a grill master you can do it yourself. Either turn on your gas grill or light your charcoals (I have a charcoal Weber myself).
- Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder and 2 tbsps. of the dressing and let sit while grill heats up.
- Get your bread ready to become croutons! Drizzle EVOO on each slice and spread with the 2 additional garlic gloves. Season the bread with salt and pepper.
- Once your grill is ready spray the grates with non-stick spray and put the chicken on the grill. The chicken will take 5-6 minutes per side depending on hot your grill is. Once you flip the chicken add the bread, but be careful, as it will burn quickly.
- Remove the cooked chicken and bread from the grill and let sit to cool off while you cook the lettuce. Brush some of the dressing on each half of the romaine head. Grill for about 1 minute per side or until slightly charred. You really do not want to overcook the lettuce - the idea is to have a slight char for flavor, really less is more here.
- You are now ready to assemble! Cut the romaine and place in a large bowl or platter (note - you will likely not be able to use the top ends as they will be too soggy and soggy salad is gross). Next chop the chicken into bite size pieces and place on top of the lettuce. I have fresh tomatoes right now so I added in 2 of them, but if you do not have fresh tomatoes you can eliminate these. Top with the thinly sliced Parmesan cheese (use the long slicing blade on the box grater), croutons and torn basil leaves. Finish it off with the remaining dressing.
- Serve and enjoy! This is meant to be eaten right away and leftovers will not keep (again the soggy lettuce thing).