So from a blogging perspective, January was a bust. I had so many great posts planned, and then the whole working like crazy and packing and moving to a foreign country thing happened and the planned posts I was excited about fell by the wayside. My apologies! But, the hubs and I are now settled into our condo in Thailand, and I plan on doing a post soon all about adjusting to life here— the benefits, challenges, and the adventures of cooking in my now micro kitchen with a limited supply of ingredients, only two small burners and a toaster oven. Buckle up and come along for the ride with me!
For today, I have the recipe for the most frequently requested meal by my husband. Every time I meal plan for the week, I ask him for input and ask him if he’s craving anything in particular and this is always his response: The Kale Caesar with Jerk Chicken. Even though he probably asks for it once a week, I don’t agree to make it that often, because I’m freakishly terrified of getting stuck in a food rut and overcompensate by rarely repeating recipes, even ones I really like. I cooked for my husband for an entire year when we were dating and first married before I repeated a single recipe. But even with that obsessive inclination, I make this salad at least monthly, if not twice a month. And for me, that’s saying a lot. So trust me when I say this one’s addicting and you will want it in your arsenal. Its healthy but hearty, and absolutely packed with flavor. The kale is so crunchy, the dressing so rich and dreamy, and the chicken has a wonderful kick to it and it all comes together so perfectly.
The dressing is ridiculously good. Once you get in the habit of making your own caesar dressing, I swear you will never buy a store-bought one again. I don’t even order caesar salads in restaurants as a general rule because I don’t like them as much as this one. Its salty, creamy, thick, and the garlic packs a punch. I promise, this is the last caesar dressing recipe you’ll ever need. I usually opt to make my own croutons, out of diced pretzel rolls (pictured here), crusty baguette, or everything bagels (!!!) but there are plenty of from-scratch elements to this salad already by the time you make the dressing and the rub for the chicken, so if you want to use store-bought or completely nix them to save time, you can do that too! For a wonderful lower carb or gluten free alternative, use a generous handful of toasted pine nuts.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
For the Dressing
3 Tbs mayo
1 raw egg, room temp *
1/3 cup grated parmesan
3-4 cloves of peeled garlic
1 large lemon, both zested and juiced
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs anchovy paste **
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
*To omit the raw egg, simply double the mayo.
**Heres the thing about anchovy paste: even if you KNOW you don’t like anchovies, try using it anyway! You can start with a smaller amount if you are unsure, but I make this dressing all the time for self proclaimed anchovy haters and they LOVE IT. They don’t even know it’s there if you don’t tell them. (If you decide to conceal it, of course beware of those with fish allergies). What I'm trying to say is it doesn’t taste fishy at all, it just gives it an incredible umami, a salty-rich-savory taste that really makes the dressing next level.
FOR THE CHICKEN
1.5 lbs chicken tenders
4-5 Tbs Jerk seasoning, store-bought or my recipe as follows:
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika (preferably smoked)
1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Salad
2 bunches of Kale, washed, thick ribs removed, and leafy parts thinly sliced into roughly 1/2 inch pieces
Shaved parmesan as desired.
Handful of croutons or toasted pine nuts
Tip: use a vegetable peeler to get nice large, thin slices off a wedge of hard parmesan.
WHAT YOU'LL DO
FOR THE DRESSING
Combine all ingredients besides the olive oil in a blender or food processor until pureed thoroughly and frothy. No large chunks of garlic should remain. Scrape down sides, and turn the blender on again, now adding the oil in a steady stream through the lid while the blender is still going until emulsified. Transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated. You will have more dressing than you need for this particular recipe but it keeps well for up to a week in the fridge. The garlic flavors just intensify with time.
For the Chicken
Combine spices. Rinse chicken tenders and pat completely dry. Lay flat on a cutting board and pour half your spice rub over the top, rubbing and massaging into the chicken to create a thick crust. Flip the tenders over, and repeat with remaining rub. Preheat flat bottom skillet on medium high heat and drop in 1 tbs of oil until shimmering and smoking. Sear your chicken, cooking until blackened, with lid on but cracked for air flow (about 3-4 mins at least) and then flip to repeat for the same amount of time until blackened on the other side. Test one to make sure they are cooked through. Remove from heat or pan and allow to rest and cool to slightly warm before slicing. I recommend slicing once you have already tossed and plated your salad so as to keep the juices in the chicken and keep it tender.
FOR THE SALAD
Toss the kale leaves with desired amount of dressing, shaved parmesan, and toasted pine nuts or croutons. Plate your salad and top with jerk chicken. Dig In!!!
This serves two as a complete entree size meal or four people as part of a meal, such as paired with a hearty soup or pasta.