Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chicken Caesar salad flatbread

Have you ever loved a dish so much that you see it everywhere you go?  I don't mean spot it literally, like on a menu, but envision the possibilities of where it could be.

Thus is the Caesar salad for Matt and me.  We love Caesar salads and try 'em everywhere we go.  We've had classic versions, kale versions, dressing-made-tableside versions, and rare but so delicious whole anchovy-topped versions.  In other words, Caesar salads for miles.

...and therein lies the problem.  The more you're exposed to something, the easier it is for you to spot a good version and a not so good version.  Inadvertently, you become a snob regarding a food you once loved so much.

A few weeks ago, we checked out a new local restaurant and ordered the three-course menu.  Two options were presented for the salad course -- can you guess which one we selected?

The waitress delivered our salads, and we surveyed the scene:

Tomatoes?  Shouldn't have been there.

A few large shavings of parmesan?  Looked good.

Whole anchovies perched on top?  Well done.  Tomato misstep overlooked.

As soon as we dug in and took the first bite, we exchanged one of those looks.  The kind of looks you can only share with people you know really well.  The kind of look that says, "I know we're thinking the same thing, but I'm about to open the flood gates and tell you about it anyway."

The dressing was so incredibly bland.  And, as far as a Caesar salad goes, the dressing is everything!  In a simple salad, if the dressing lacks flavor, the whole salad just falls flat.  We were so bummed.

Without a white flag to signal surrender, we arranged our forks across our dishes and hoped the entrees could redeem the meal.  Waiting for the third course, we started talking about what could've been.  And how we could and should make a better version of a Caesar salad.

Amidst the pipe dreams of a salad do-over was also talk of pizza if the main course sucked.  Sad but true :)

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, we came up with an idea for the ultimate interpretation of a classic Caesar salad: chicken Caesar salad flatbread!

A thin and crispy pizza like crust is topped with romaine lettuce, seasoned chopped chicken, and nutty parmesan cheese.  We left off the anchovies only because yours truly forgot to add them to the grocery list -- d'oh!  Next time, for sure.

I loved how there was a even coating of dressing  dressing coated and flavored the salad elements evenly while keeping the crust nice and crispy.  And the chicken really sealed the deal and made this a legitimate meal.  An it's-so-much-fun-to-eat-it-can't-really-be-dinner kind of meal.

Thankfully, because who knows what we would've resorted to had this not gone as planned.  May the world never have to discover what happens when something gets in the way of us and Caesar salad.

(Hint: The consequences still aren't nearly as bad as those accompanying an unsatisfied craving for ice cream.)

Two years ago: Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes
Three years ago: Mom's chicken dip
Four years ago: Giant chewy sugar cookies; Sour cream pancakes

Chicken Caesar Salad Flatbread
-serves 2 as an entree or 4-6 as an appetizer

A few notes: I made the crust using half of a batch of my favorite homemade pizza dough.  Simply bake it plain and allow it to cool before topping with dressed salad makings.  Otherwise, store-bought naan or pizza rounds work just as well, too.

3 Tablespoons Caesar dressing (whatever brand is your favorite!)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon grated parmesan
1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken

2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 piece naan or pre-baked thin pizza crust

In a large bowl, whisk together dressing, lemon juice, and cheese.  Add chicken and lettuce to dressing and toss until evenly coated.  Spread salad mixture on pizza crust or Naan, leaving a 1-inch border of crust.  Cut into roughly 4-inch pieces.  Serve and enjoy!

(Flatbread can be assembled up to 30 minutes before serving.)

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