Recipes and Me

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring on the Salads!

Spring is finally here and as if my taste buds have automatically adjusted to the change, I’ve been having cravings for great entrée salads.  Not just a boring plate of greens and dressing, but something interesting with a lot of flavor.  So last weekend while sitting outside on the patio, catching up on some reading, I got a craving for one of my favorite salads – Salade Lyonnaise.  It’s a salad I discovered while living in France for a short while.  It involves a wildly free type of lettuce, a warm dressing with bacon and sweet shallots, crispy homemade croutons, and a beautiful poached egg right on top.  It seems as if every bistro in Paris has a rendition of this salad, it truly is a classic.  And it’s genius. It involves but a few components and yet the variety of textures and flavors is so satisfying.  Now there is one thing I must say upfront.  This recipe involves a poached egg, a really runny one.  For all you anti-runny egg people let me say, I’ve never been a huge fan of runny eggs either (well I guess until I discovered this salad).  Admittedly, I’m mostly a scrambled egg kind of girl.  But in this recipe having the bright yellow yolk nice and runny is so key to the flavor and creaminess of this salad.  Just trust me, don’t overcook the egg.  You’ll like it…a lot.

Salade Lyonnaise (Frisée Salad with lardons and poached egg)
4 servings

7-8 cups (8 oz. or so) frisée lettuce, washed and trimmed into bite sized pieces
Rustic bread (I use a sourdough boule, French baguettes work well also)
½ pound good quality thick sliced bacon
2 small or 1 medium shallot, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar (could also use a nice white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon mild Dijon mustard
4 eggs (use VERY fresh eggs, they won’t poach correctly if they’re not fresh)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Olive Oil (I prefer a lighter fruity olive oil for salads)

Put washed and trimmed frisée lettuce in a large salad bowl and set aside.  Slice bread into 3 slices that are about 2 inches thick.  Remove the crusts from the slices of bread and discard.  Cut the bread into big cubes, about 1 inch in size.  Drizzle just a little olive oil over the bread cubes, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and pepper over the bread and just toss a couple of times with your fingers to moisten all of the bread.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Throw the bread in the pan and toast, turning as needed to toast on all sides, for 5-7 minutes until the bread cubes have turned into golden croutons.  Turn off the heat, remove the croutons from the pan and set aside (it’s ok to snack on one or two to reward yourself for your crouton making patience, they are pretty irresistible).  Wipe the pan so there aren’t any bread bits left. 

Cut the bacon slices crosswise into strips about ½ inch thick.  Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan and bring it to medium heat.  Put the bacon in the pan and fry for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Remove the bacon strips (lardons) and place them on a paper towel.  Add the chopped shallots to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until they become soft.  Add the sherry vinegar and Dijon mustard to the pan and whisk until it begins to boil and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan (4 qt. or slightly larger) with 2 inches of salted water and the teaspoon of white vinegar to a very gentle simmer.  Crack an egg into a small dish and at water level tip it into the simmering water.  Wait just a few seconds and then use a spoon to push the white of the egg around the yolk so it is completely covered (with an older egg, you’ll have a bunch of wispy pieces of the white that pull away from the yolk and leave the yolk exposed).  Let it poach for 2 minutes. Meanwhile crack the next egg and follow the same step (I usually do 2 eggs at a time in the pan and then start over with the last 2).  Remove the eggs as they are ready and place on a plate with a paper towel to drain off any water.

Throw the croutons in the bowl with the greens.  Put the bacon back in the pan with the dressing, bring it to medium heat just for a minute to warm through, and stir (the dressing may separate a bit, it’s ok).  Pour the warm bacon dressing over the lettuce (it will wilt a little) and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste.  Top each person’s salad portion with a poached egg (everyone gets to break their own egg and let the creamy yolk become part of the salad dressing).

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