The best chicken caesar salad I’ve ever had

The miracle of this marinade would have been enough. Mix a few ingredients, pour in half for a fiery Caesar dressing and save the rest to marinate your chicken? Awesome.

But then, don’t let this marinade sit for hours to soak up. Don’t even wipe it off. Simply sizzle the chicken and its protective coating in a non-stick skillet, until the oil separates from the marinade and the parmesan and anchovies are crispy and brown. It can only be described as Wow.

Ali Slagle learned the power of mayonnaise-based marinades from New York Times colleague J. Kenji López-Alt: Mayo browns beautifully, carries flavors well, and protects seasonings from burning (you can read all about it here) . Then Ali put the trick to good use in his very own Ginger Lime Chicken.

But when faced with creating 150 dinner recipes for his first cookbook “I Dream of Dinner,” each made in 45 minutes and with less than 10 ingredients, Ali began dreaming of how to make this marinade works even more.

“I always thought of it as loose teeth,” Ali told me. “In my head, I was stirring every ingredient and thinking, ‘What would this dish be without him? Would it still be good?'”

So the marinade doubled as the dressing, and Ali continued to interrogate each bottle and sheet, to make sure they were all doing their part in terms of effectiveness and joy. Here’s how the rest slipped away and changed what I thought a chicken Caesar salad could be.

Players who dress:

Along with some of the punchy classics like lemon, anchovy, and garlic that define the flavor of this salad as a decidedly Caesar, Ali brings in some unexpected and welcome characters.

Instead of Worcestershire sauce, which doesn’t always justify the space it rents in the fridge door, Ali turns to the more ubiquitous soy sauce for umami and well-balanced salt. She also adds Dijon mustard — “another tangy ingredient,” she told me — and lemon zest, a freebie with the juice, for even more brightness.

The lettuce(s):

Inspired by Samin Nosrat’s Caesar, Ali likes a mix of sweet and juicy lettuce like Romaine or Little Gems and bitter chicory like endive, escarole or radicchio, to bring out more dimension and make a salad of dinner as compelling as a multi-course meal.

She also sprinkles the greens with lemon juice and salt before getting dressed – yet another layer of bland prevention.

The giant crouton:

Ali starts his croutons in a skillet as large slices of toast, then cuts them into bite-size pieces. This frees us from the inevitable little crumbs that will start smoldering before the rest, and gives us a new paradigm of crouton: crispy edges, yes, but also warm, chewy middles.

And all that thinking, all that flavoring, can take as little time as your favorite podcast. The marinade is still enough to make this recipe awesome, but Ali has also given us many other miracles to take home in our kitchens.

Recipe: Not Just Another Chicken Caesar Salad from Ali Slagle

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