Tuesday, November 20, 2007

French Salad...

Well the idea came from time spent in France a couple of years ago. I often say that, "Life is too short to eat salad", but of course there are salads and then there are SALADS.

I do like composed salads where the ingredients play off each other and especially those that contain potatoes.

So here goes a master list and technique for a really tasty composed salad. A bit fiddly, but fits well into my 45 minute window.

Almost hard cooked eggs (1 1/2 per person, cut vertically into quarters)
A cooked protein (pork belly lardons, guanciale, flank steak, tuna, chicken)
Boiled red potatoes - skin on, but cut into 1 inch chunks. Best if you can buy them that size
A soft cheese (Brie, Epoisse, even Roquefort, Tallegio, soft goat cheese...)
A dressing (normally a simple vinaigrette)
Spring onions or scallions
Some suitable salad greens. I like to use Mesclun, but pretty much any greens will work.

Simmer the potatoes until they are cooked. With about 7 minutes to go with the potatoes, put the eggs into the water. Eggs in the US are washed, so I don't think there is anything to be concerned about. Anyway the temp is 212 and the eggs will be in for 7 minutes.

Take the eggs out, place immediately in lots of cold water. Strain the potatoes, allow to cool for about 5 minutes (they should still be warm)and toss with the vinaigrette. Slice the eggs into the vertical quarters.

Put the greens into the bowl with the potatoes and vinaigrette. Toss. Note dressing the salad this way means you use less dressing than pouring the dressing over the greens. My waist line appreciates it!

Compose the salad, adding whatever ingredients you want - making sure that you mix in the protein. For example you might want to add roasted red peppers, or tomatoes, - you certainly want something red in there. Radishes work. Cooled steamed green beans are nice as well. They can be steamed on top of the potatoes.

Finish the salad with the cheese, eggs and green onions as decorations. You can make this a mound of salad in a large bowl for family style eating, or do them individually.

There are no quantities in here because it really doesn't matter a whole lot. Just make sure that it isn't all lettuce! The potatoes in vinaigrette really make this dish.


Madame said...

It's all very well describing the general approach, but could you please be more concrete. I couldn't make one of these if you weren't home.

Chris Bird said...

Ok, here goes:

For 4 people as a main course salad, here is a recipe.

4 oz of salt pork
1 tsp vegetable oil
16 small red potatoes quartered
6 eggs
12 oz green beans - topped, tailed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 head of green leaf lettuce
1 bunch tarragon - leaves only, chopped coarsely
8 scallions - white and light green only
2 large tomatoes, cored, chopped into small pieces and drained
3 oz ripe brie (put in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to plating)

Remove the rind from the salt pork and cut into short (3/4 in), narrow (1/4 in) strips. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When shimmering hot, add the salt pork strips and cook gently over medium low heat until the fat has rendered and the pork is a deep ruddy brown (about 10-12 minutes). If the meat is not geting any colour, turn the heat up slightly. The meat must be done slowly to render the fat and leave the meat crispy.

Take the meat from the fat using a slotted spoon and wrap in a couple of sheets of paper towel to soak up the excess fat.

Make the vinaigrette (see below).

While the pork is cooking, scrub and quarter the red potaoes, put in a large pot (preferably in a pot that has room for a steamer insert too) covering with water by at least 2 inches. Remember we will be adding eggs in their shells to this water. Add a couple of teaspoons of kosher salt to the water. Bring the potatoes to a simmer with the lid on.

When the potatoes come to a simmer, put the eggs in the water (in their shells) and hard cook for 7 minutes.

Remove the eggs, and immediately plunge into ice water. Insert the steamer basket into the pot, and place the beans in the basket. Put the lid on and allow the beans to steam for about 5-7 minutes. Check for doneness at 5 minutes. The beans and potatoes should be done at the same time (or close to it). The potatoes need to be firm, but cooked all through

Remove the beans and place in the ice water with the eggs. This will stop them cooking any further. Note that at this time there is no salt on the beans.

Remove the beans and eggs from the ice water and reserve the ice water. Peel the eggs, leaving them whole. Slice the eggs into quarters lengthwise. The yolks should be bright orange/yellow and barely set.

Put 1/4 cup (more or less to taste) of the vinaigrette into the serving bowl, and add the still warm potatoes. Toss around, then add the cooled beans. The potatoes and beans will absorb a little dressing.

Tear the lettuce into bite sized chunks, and wash using the ice water previously reserved. Dry the lettuce thoroughly.

Add the lettuce to the serving bowl and toss. Mix in the cooked salt-pork strips and tomatoes. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Remove the brie from the freezer, and slice into small pieces - similar in size to the tomato pieces.

Dot the cheese on top of the salad, place the sliced eggs and scallions on the top.

Remember the proportions are somewhat approximate - a little more or less salt pork, some chopped red pepper as well as the tomatoes are all fine things to do!


1 tsp dry mustard (or you can use Dijon if you prefer)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
1 t Sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup neutral oil (vegetable or canola)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 t reserved fat from the salt pork (optional)

Into a jar with a screw top lid put the salt, pepper, mustard and vinegars. Add the oils, put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously until combined.

The vinigrate will keep for a week or so in the fridge. When reusing, allow to warm slightly and then shake vigorously to recombine.