Who doesn’t love a good Caesar salad? This standard crowd-pleaser can get a little…well…boring, so any time you can find a new twist on a classic, I consider that to be a very good thing. An outstanding example would be one that’s legendary at our house, our Radicchio Almond Caesar Salad
Last week when we featured the outstanding recipe for Tabasco Brined Smoky Spiced Fried Chicken I added a couple of extra chicken breasts to the brine in order to make this idea for a Fried Chicken Caesar Salad, borrowing a couple of ideas from our radicchio salad to create yet another excellent Caesar variation. Brining the chicken adds extra levels of flavor and moisture but this recipe can be made with plain, unbrined boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces as well.
You can use your own favorite Caesar dressing if you like or if you want to try your hand at a fantastic homemade version, find my standard Caesar Salad Dressing here. Besides the fried chicken I added some thinly sliced red onion and for little sweet chewy bursts of taste and texture, some golden raisins sprinkled in. Toasted almonds would also be a good addition.
Boneless skinless chicken breasts ( this recipe can accommodate 6 -8 breasts or more if you are making this for a large crowd. As long as the chicken is completely covered in brine, it is fine)
Tabasco Brine Mixture
Begin with 2 quarts (liters) of water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
Stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved, then add:
3 tbsp black peppercorns
8 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Tabasco sauce (add more if you like)
Cover and place in the fridge. After 48 hours, remove the chicken from the brine mixture and cut it into one inch strips. Toss the strips into the flour and spice dredge.
Flour and Spice Dredge
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 heaping tbsp smoked paprika
2 heaping tbsp chipotle powder
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until very well combined. Add the brined chicken pieces. Toss well and press the chicken pieces into the flour dredge with your palms to get good contact with the meat. Let stand for ten minutes, then toss again and press down with your palms again. Now it’s time to warm up your oil.
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet heat 1 inch canola or corn oil with 1/2 cup real dairy butter until it reaches 35O degrees F. Just below medium heat works well on my stove but use a thermometer to be sure. A cast iron skillet is the best for fried chicken. Be extra careful to regulate the heat properly of using anything other than cast iron. Even cooking is essential.
Drop the dredged chicken pieces into the hot oil/butter mix and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your chicken pieces, turning at least once halfway through the cooking time. I always use my meat thermometer to ensure that the largest pieces have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, which is perfect for fried chicken. The chicken should be a beautiful golden brown when it comes out of the oil. Let it rest on a wire rack to drain for 5 minutes before serving.
Caesar Salad ( 4 servings)
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and dried
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 slices sugar cured smoked bacon, crisp fried and chopped
½ cup good Caesar salad dressing
Toss all the ingredients very well together, place the fried chicken pieces on top just before serving. Dust with a little extra parmesan cheese.