Caesar Chicken Salad

Barbeques, potlucks, or dinner on the patio with a few friends – summertime is full of events where food and drink play the starring role. This year, I spent the majority of the long Fourth of July weekend stuffing my face with a multitude of delicious salads, dips, chips and other outdoor party staples. My contribution was one of my party standards, Caesar Chicken Salad.

Colorful and flavorful, this salad is relatively quick, easy and a more nutritious alternative to other heavier, creamier party salads. One big time saver is using a rotisserie chicken – I bought mine from Harps, but they’re also available at several other grocery stores around town. Of course, you can roast your own chicken if you’ve got the whole afternoon at your disposal, but buying a rotisserie chicken definitely saves a lot of mess, effort and time.

When making the salad, it’s easy to control the amount of white and dark meat that goes into the mixture to suit your taste or your appetite. If I’m going to a big party, I usually shred the entire chicken, using an equal portion of white and dark meat – but if I’m making it for a smaller event or just for dinner, I use only the white meat and save the dark meat for another meal.

The flavors in the salad range from sweet, smoky red bell pepper to tangy, briny capers, and everything is brought together with my version of Caesar dressing, which is a tamer, lighter take on the original. I just can’t bring myself to use raw eggs when I’m serving a crowd – but I’ve still got the anchovy in there! I’ll sometimes add nuts to the mixture, too, like toasted walnuts or pecans, which add a tasty crunch. The salad is delicious served on a bed of greens, warm tortillas, pita bread or just by itself. Enjoy!

Caesar Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and chopped
1/3 c. kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 c. capers, rinsed
2 Tbs. sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/3 c. toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
Caesar dressing (recipe follows)

Caesar Dressing
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat your broiler to high. Halve and seed the red bell pepper and place it skin side up on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler until the skin has blackened and blistered, about 10 minutes. Remove from the broiler, place in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge while you shred the chicken.

Caesar Dressing Ingredients

Remove the skin from the rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken into bite sized pieces and place it in a large mixing bowl. Chop the olives, sundried tomatoes and parsley and place in the bowl with the chicken. Rinse the capers and add to the bowl.

Take the bell pepper out of the fridge and gently peel off the blackened skin. Coarsely chop the peeled pepper and add to the bowl.

Mince the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon of salt to form a paste. In a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, add the garlic and salt, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard and anchovy paste and shake vigorously to combine. Add the olive oil and grated cheese and shake vigorously again. Add ground pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and toss gently to combine. Serve with pita bread, warm tortillas or lettuce cups.

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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.