Caesar, but not quite Caesar. I’ll elaborate: this salad has all the makings of a typical Caesar salad—lettuce, toasted bread, Dijon, anchovies, garlic, lemon and olive oil—but with one wildcard ingredient..tahini! Sounds strange to be adding this Middle Eastern sesame paste into the mix, but its nutty creaminess really complements the punchy hit of Dijon and anchovies. Anchovies are optional but absolutely recommended for that savoury umami hit that no other ingredient can possibly replicate. If you really wish to leave it out, a tiny glug of Worcestershire sauce will add some depth here in its place.
A note on the chicken: I’m a thigh girl. In Shania Twain’s words – forever and for always. I roast the chicken pieces in a really hot oven just until the chicken cooks through and remains juicy. Rest until cool enough to handle, then shred with your fingers. You could just as easily use deboned thighs or breasts here. Cooking times may vary, especially for the breasts, so keep an eye out for that.
Same goes with the bread: use any kind you have. I use a toaster for the ease of it, but show them under the grill for a few mins, or pan-fry with a little oil. Anything goes. Doesn’t matter which way you do it, you just want them nice and crispy.
I added cubed avocado to bulk it up a bit and for some extra flavour and textural variation. Same idea with the pickled jalapenos and gherkins. The little bursts of acidity and spice from them counters the creaminess of the tahini. The addition of chicken makes this salad a meal in itself – always a win in my book. Make it!
CHICKEN SALAD WITH TAHINI DRESSING
- 4 chicken thighs (see notes)
- 1 small avocado, cubed
- 2 slices of bread
- 2 tablespoons gherkins, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeños, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Iceberg or romaine, to serve
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 anchovies with oil (optional) or 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Lay the chicken pieces on a baking tray and pat them dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. No oiling necessary.
- Roast the chicken for 10 -15 mins or until cooked through. To test, pierce the thickest part of the chicken. If the juices run clear it’s cooked; if not, roast for a few more mins until the juices run clear. Alternatively, cook the chicken in a pan with a little oil until charred on the outside and cooked within.
- Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces with your fingers. Set aside.
- Toast the bread in a toaster, under the grill or in a pan with a little oil. Doesn’t matter which way you do it, you just want them to crisp up nicely. Cut into cubes.
- Add the anchovies if using, some of the oil from the tin, black peppercorns and garlic cloves to a pestle and mortar. Pound until you have a paste and the black pepper has broken down into coarse nubbly bits.
- Stir through the Dijon mustard, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. If it appears too thick, thin out with some hot water. Set aside.
- Add roughly chopped lettuce, chicken, avocado, bread, gherkins and pickled jalapeños to a large bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss just before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning.