Tuesday, March 3, 2009

FOOD - chicken caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons

Pop quiz - you have - 5 pounds of frozen chicken breasts, a loaf of stale sourdough bread and 6 heads of romaine lettuce (obviously I just cannot resist shopping at Costco)
- what do you make for dinner?? Chicken caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons - so easy - so delicious.

Since I used dressing from a bottle (cheating I know but it is good, really good - I promise) the only real prep was baking up some chicken and making croutons.

I looked up a bunch of crouton recipes and then sort of created a hybrid of my own using a little less butter, a lot more garlic and larger cuts of bread - no dainty uniformed-sized croutons in my salad.

Here is the general recipe I followed for the croutons -

1/2 loaf of french bread (I used a loaf - not a baguette - of sour batard), cut into 1-1.5" squares
5 tablespoons butter - either salted or unsalted
2-4 large cloves of garlic, minced

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees (if you are me - remember to first remove all the baking pans you store in the oven, much easier to do before they get hot)
  2. in a large saute pan - brown butter, add minced garlic, cook for ~1 min until coated not yet browned.
  3. add bread to butter/garlic mix in pan, toss to coat.
  4. Spread coated bread onto baking sheet (on a silpat if you have it, otherwise use an uncoated baking sheet)
  5. bake for ~15 minutes until dry and crispy. Check them frequently after 5 mins of cooking to shake them around and prevent any burning.
  6. season with a little salt - less if you used salted butter.

A few notes -
Although the croutons look and smell amazing (seriously my apartment smelled like freshly baked garlic bread for hours) try to stop yourself from popping one in your mouth immediately after pulling them out of the oven. They made not feel super hot to the touch but I have the burn on my lip to prove that they are.

There will be a lot of loose garlic bits on the baking pan when you are done. I just tossed this into the salad with the croutons. It added a nice baked nutty garlic kick.

I did a simple baked chicken with lemon, pepper and a little salt since the dressing and the croutons are so flavorful there was no point in going all out with the chicken. I sliced it thin, restaurant style similar to what is shown in the photo above.

Many of the crouton recipes called for olive oil instead of butter. I had more butter on hand than olive oil and love the way that browned butter tastes. If you prefer olive oil - do a quick search on epicurious.com or marthastewart.com and you will find numerous recipes.

I made the croutons a day ahead - then my dear husband took the bag to the couch and proceeded to eat them like chips (crunchy butter soaked baked garlic chips). Luckily - I had no shortage of stale bread, butter or garlic around (thanks Costco!) so I made another - larger - batch the next day for dinner.

There is a Martha Stewart recipe that uses cookie cutters to shape all the croutons into hearts. How ummm sweet - I don't think I will be doing that anytime soon.


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