Imagine, if you will, a Chicken Caesar Salad.
Cool. Crisp. Creamy.
A classic dish, some may say.
A Chicken Caesar Salad!
It looks innocent enough doesn't it? But, that is no ordinary Chicken Caesar Salad.
That is a salad that has traveled the space-time continuum. A salad, constructed from the unusual. A salad so familiar, yet… so… strange.
What's so strange about it you ask?
This salad was created from the following ingredients…
Those things can't combine to create a classic chicken caesar salad can they?
Oh, yes they can. Yes they can!
Ladies and Gentlemen. You've just crossed over into…
The Filipino Pantry Zone!
That’s Marvin. A typical Filipino-American male. He enjoys lumpia, and tacky wooden trinkets fill his heart with happiness.
It’s midday on a typical Sunday, and Marvin is sitting in his favorite chair, watching football with his reddened eyes glazed and his mouth ever so agape. He’s a mouth breather.
Grumble, grumble, grumble. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Marvin then averts his reddened gaze from the television to his belly.
“Put some food in me, you lazy son of a bitch! Cookies and coffee does not a complete breakfast make!” his stomach seemed to scream.
“Wait till halftime, you ungrateful bastard! Those cookies were homemade by my wife!” Marvin yelled back at his boisterous belly. “In the meantime, have some of this!”
Marvin then downed the last of his Bluecoat martini, then gingerly picked, one by one, the three anchovy-stuffed olives from his glass and plopped them into his mouth.
“Olives till the half you ass!” Marvin yelled to his stomach.
Alas, it was barely the start of the 2nd quarter.
Grumble, grumble, blehhhhh. Grumble, grumble, blehhhhh.
The tippel and olives were not enough to sate the emtpy stomach.
“Some of this then, I say!” Marvin yelled just before he had a beer. And another.
Grumble, grumble, hiccup. Grumble, grumble, hiccup.
The empty stomach, though dazed, still had an insatiable urge for something, anything, a bit more solid than booze. Marvin then arose from his throne and stumbled into his kitchen. He opened his refrigerator and spied some leftover chicken adobo.
“Eh. I’m tired of chicken adobo. Me tummy want somethin else,” thought the drunken Pinoy.
Then, from the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer of hot pink. A pink so pink that it reminded him of Jem’s eyeshadow: It was outrageous. Truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly, outrageous.
It was a jar of bagoong hiding in his refrigerator door. Stinky. Tasty. Bagoong. Marvin then saw some romaine lettuce. He swiveled his head around and found some garlic, kalamansi, and some pandesal rolls on his kitchen counter.
Grumble, grumble, Chicken Caesar Salad! Grumble, grumble, Chicken Caesar Salad!
“Chicken Caesar what?!! That don’t make no sense!” thought the perplexed Pinoy.
“Trust me,” said the empty stomach.
Marvin then gathered his ingredients, and took a picture of them. And numbered them. Because he’s a drunken weirdo that takes pictures of his food and assigns numerical values to each of them.
The inebriated one then peeled and cut a large garlic clove in half, and rubbed one of the halves all over the inside of a large bowl. He then placed both garlic halves in a skillet of hot oil and fried them till golden brown and delicious.
“Don’t burn the garlic!” yelled the belly.
Our alcoholic-in-denial then removed and discarded the garlic from the oil. He then placed some cubed pandesal into the hot oil and proceeded to fry them until golden brown and delicious.
“Don’t burn the croutons!” yelled the belly.
Marvin then removed the fried pandesal croutons from the oil and placed them on paper towels to drain.
Marvin then took his leftover chicken adobo, removed the skin and fat, and shredded it with a couple of forks.
“Whallah! You too good to use your hands, Lazy?!!” yelled the belly.
“Shut the hell up! Yerrr not, yerrrrr not my mooothhhher!” slurred Marvin.
He then shoved the adobo shreds into the microwave and nuked them for a minute to warm them through.
Marvin, a bit apprehensive, then took hold of his bagoong jar and twisted it open. He stuck his nose into its opening and…
Took. One. Big. Whiff.
“Cough, cough, ahhhhhhh! Pink is my favorite color!” he exclaimed as the shrimp paste’s pungency acted as a smelling salts to his stupor.
“Bagoong beats anchovies every time!” yelled the belly.
Fearing the strength of the bagoong, Marvin took a scant quarter teaspoon of the powerful pink and placed it into the garlic perfumed bowl, along with an egg yolk and some kalamansi juice.
After whisking the bagoong, egg, and kalamansi together, Marvin slowly drizzled in the same olive oil he used to fry the garlic and the croutons with. After he had emulsified the dressing, he whisked in a bit of salt and pepper, added some chopped romaine to the bowl, and tossed the salad.
“Toss that salad!” yelled the belly.
Marvin then placed the dressed romaine into a bowl, added the shredded chicken and croutons, and grated on some fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese.
He took a bite.
“Sarap!” he said.
“Sarap!” yelled the belly.
The dressing was creamy and tangy, and had just the right amount of saltiness (and a faint hint of fishiness) from the bagoong–an excellent substitute for anchovies. The crunch of the pandesal and vinegary kick from the adobo made for an unusual, yet delicious, Chicken Caesar Salad.
“Don’t be afraid of Filipino ingredients!” yelled the belly. “Now put some more beer in me!”
Filipino Pantry Chicken Caesar Salad
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Caesar Salad)
Yield: About 6 servings
1 cup shredded chicken from leftover chicken adobo
1 large garlic clove, halved
3/4 cup to 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Filipino pandesal rolls, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon bagoong (fermented shrimp paste, found in Asian markets)
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons fresh kalamansi juice
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Season a large salad bowl by rubbing a cut half of garlic on the inside of bowl. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the bowl (reserve garlic). Set salad bowl aside.
Heat 3/4 cup oil with both garlic halves in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Turn garlic often and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and discard garlic from oil. Add pandesal cubes to oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer croutons to paper towels to drain. Pour remaining oil from skillet through a fine-mesh strainer and into a heatproof measuring cup. Add more oil to bring total to 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons). Allow oil to come to room temperature.
Place bagoong, yolk, and kalamansi juice into the garlic-rubbed salad bowl and whisk well to combine. Slowly stream in the 6 tablespoons of olive oil into the salad bowl while continuously whisking. After dressing comes together and is emulsified, taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more bagoong if desired.
Place lettuce into bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Place salad into individual bowls and top with shredded adobo chicken and pandesal croutons. Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.