lunch for a friend

my friend Mrs. B teaches 6th grade special ed, and since i'm not doing anything these days, i decided to bring her lunch. but not just any lunch; it had to be good. no pb & j here! although having said that, i do like pb & j a lot. and it probably would have transported me back to childhood, to eat pb & j in her classroom. but i wanted better than that.

whatever i made had to be easily transportable, so i sat down and went through some cookbooks (incidentally, i catalogued them yesterday - did i say i was bored? and we have 120 cookbooks and food-related books in our library. we have more that have been loaned out and i know of two steven raichlen books that have gone "missing" and for all i know they're in the box of occult and anne rice books in the garage. so 120 is the low end there). the boy suggested i make something of the barefoot contessa's, because a lot of her stuff is portable. and as soon as he said that, i knew exactly what i wanted to make.

Caesar Club Sandwich
From Barefoot Contessa At Home

Serves 3 (generously!)

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly slices pancetta (i used bacon)
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta bread
2 ounces baby arugula
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 to 3 ounces shaved Parmesan (use a peeler for this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta (or bacon, in my case) on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp (closer to a half hour for bacon). Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayo and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the dressing if not using immediately).

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, pancetta, and sliced chicken. sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. serve at room temperature.

i've been dying to make this recipe for a while, and i'm irritated with myself because i was running low on time while assembling and forgot to take pictures of the sandwich before cutting. trust me, it is impressive! the flavors marry so well together. the recipe says it makes three servings, but you'll see that each portion is so huge that you can share with someone else. i stopped by the boy's work on the way to the middle school and dropped off his "serving", which he shared with the executive chef. he had suggested i used shaved Asiago, so i used a mix of both parmesan and Asiago. later, he suggested that next time i cut the sun-dried tomatoes into slivers, as they would be easier to eat that way.

I wrapped each piece in plastic wrap, packed up some pretty disposable plates with big huge gardenias on them (i do have my big, gay, and girly moments sometimes), and brought along a big tupperware of mixed greens, which i dressed when i got to the school with a simple vinaigrette (1 clove chopped garlic, salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil, put it in a container with tight fitting lid and shake like hell. the amount of vinegar and oil is up to your taste). growing up, we had salad every single night with dinner, and this was the dressing we used. if you need help with basic dressings and sauces, i suggest purchasing Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, which is my absolute favorite "cookbook" ever. it's basically a condensed version of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Oh, and anchovies. if you don't already know this. a bit of advice: don't advertise that there are anchovies in your dressing. well, most people like them and will get over it; but a few will not deal with that well. i once brought homemade tapenade to a party in DC and i was going through the list of ingredients with one of the guests who immediately looked disgusted with me and life in general when i mentioned anchovies. people assume the worst, but honestly you cannot get a better source of savoriness for things like caesar dressing without them.


It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me at work! I really loved the lunch and the company! Thanks so much!

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