It is time again to bring out The Chicken-Fried Pork Belly Salad, which I created in August 2007 in the midst of my fury at the chief icon of American restaurant food: The Chicken Caesar.  Today’s post was sparked by Sam Sifton’s NYTimes magazine column on the Caesar salad, which addresses the fact that few dishes are truly authentic, and he uses the Caesar salad as an example. For me putting a chicken breast on a perfectly good Caesar is an emblem of American mediocrity, a lack of imagination, and our fear of food (The Shame of the Chicken Caesar Salad). But Sifton, while he makes the unconscionable error of failing to include my Chicken Fried Pork Belly Casear in his list of famous variations, does us a service by telling us a freeing truth: Read On »

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Originally posted, 8/13/07 (alas, I have yet to rid America of this tragedy): Does anyone know who first put cooked chicken breast on a Caesar salad and called it a Chicken Caesar?  I wish I did.  I’ve been upset about this at least for two years now because I remember railing to Todd English and Ming Tsai about it as we traveled together for an erstwhile cooking show.  “The Chicken Caesar is an emblem of the mediocrity of American cuisine!” I would cry.  Ming would chuckle and turn up the volume on his iPod, and Todd more or less ignored me as a run-of-the-mill crank screaming into the nor’easter of American food culture. Or so I thought. Last week I had lunch at a Cheesecake Factory in Cleveland, and of course, there it was, Caesar Read On »

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Update 9/13/07: Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang and anonymous reviewer are first to review the dish. I personally will not rest until this dish makes it onto The Cheesecake Factory Menu. Yesterday I received a heartening email about my plea to rid the nation of the tragedy called the Chicken Caesar Salad and my suggestion for a protest replacement.  It wasn’t from an esoteric ADD freaking madman cook putting rooster tops on romaine.  It was a man of the heartland, a relative unknown, a cook who’s spent a plenty of time in corporate chefdom.  His name is Mark Mavrantonis and he’s the chef at Mike Ditka’s suburban outpost in Oakbrook Terrace, a half hour outside Chicago.  (You gotta trust a chef who goes after his own king crabs.) It’s proof that some of these guys Read On »

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It’s the only way to redeem the catastrophe of the Chicken Caesar.  Wed it with pork belly that has been briefly cured, then gently poached in fat, cooled in fat, then sliced, breaded and deep-fried.  I want to say it again: Pork belly confit, deep-fried.  Oh, man it is soooo good. Following what I think is an extraordinary thread of comments on the Caesar Salad in America, for which I want to express huge thanks to those who took the time to write and argue; all of you help me to know what I think and I hope think better, and I am grateful—I humbly introduce … The Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar.  I didn’t do the croutons because of the crispy nature of the pork but Donna suggested that for a truly innovative interpretation, Read On »

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