Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Michael and I took a short jaunt to New York City a couple of years ago as a precursor to a bigger jaunt. We planned to spend a few quiet days in town before boarding a ship for a week long stay in Bermuda. Well, our low key layover quickly morphed into a gluttonous romp through the streets of Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Chelsea, and the East Village. After three raucous days, our rampage wound down and we found ourselves at The Odeon in Tribeca. Glitzed out in neon with understated Art Deco trappings, The Odeon (with its classic brassier menu) was a perfect refuge from our food storm. We arrived for lunch/brunch before they actually opened. The doors were unlocked, so we bellied up to the bar and ordered cocktails. While the entire simple menu made my heart sing,  the Country Frisee Salad sold me. Fourme d'Ambert cheese, lardon, croutons, bacon vinaigrette. Then, add poached farm fresh egg. Classic Lyonnaise bistro frisee salad. Happily moaning and groaning (literally) I made a fool of myself eating that salad. Warm bacon dressing. Warm oozing egg yolk. Salty lardons. Crisp croutons. Tangy vinaigrette. The stuff of dreams. Really.

I've made frisee salads with poached eggs a few times since that particular Odeon day. It's not difficult to throw together. It's a salad, for Pete's sake. It's just that frisee can be hard to find. While most chicory greens seem to be readily available ( albeit expensive), frisee is typically a hit or miss variety. What gives? When I want it, I can't find frisee. When I  happen upon it, it's not on my radar. Because of that conondrum, my dreamy salad rests in limbo. Not on the radar. Not even a single blip. That logic changed when I stumbled across bags filled with something that looked like strange frisee from Stonehedge Farm at the farmers' market. That something turned out to be feathery Scarlet and Emerald Frilled Mustard Greens. Mind blown. They were absolutely gorgeous and peculiar. After asking a few questions, I learned that frilled mustard greens lend themselves beautifully to quick sautes or stir fries.  That said, because they're incredibly delicate and tender, young frilled mustard greens are perfect for salads. Game on.

Scarlet and Emerald Mustard Green Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, Crouton, and Poached Egg. 
Sure, it was a salad. While simple, the symphony of flavors and textures needed to be constructed carefully. After all, I didn't want to muck up an unexpected  riff on my dream salad. I found it easier to simply mise en place each component one at a time.

After separating the tangled greens, I washed them thoroughly, patted them dry, trimmed a few of the rough stems, wrapped them a clean dish cloth, and slid them into the refrigerator to chill. Funny, when wet, the greens looked and felt like ocean swept seaweed. Weird and beautiful.

Classically, lardons are small matchstick-cut pieces of bacon or larding fat cut from a slab of pork belly. Fail. I used my last bits of pork belly in a mess of long simmered country style green beans. I had bacon. Ordinary run-of-the-mill bacon. I sliced 8 pieces of  center cut bacon into 1/4 inch strips and dropped them into a cold cast iron skillet before cranking the heat to medium high. I wanted to render as much fat as possible to crisp the bacon and have enough residual fat for the vinaigrette. When the bacon was fully cooked and crisp, I scooped it onto paper towels to drain,  reserved 5 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet, pulled it from the heat, and set it aside.

While fabulous, croutons (plural) can be fussy. They burn. They cook unevenly. They make me crazy. That said, I kept the notion of croutons by making large croutons for the crunch factor. Egged on by my frilled mustard greens moment at the farmers' market, I bopped over to Blue Moon Farm and snagged a loaf of Sunrise Bakery Sourdough bread. I sliced thin pieces of the wonderfully dense sourdough bread on the bias, brushed both sides with olive oil, grilled them until they were a bit charred, and set them aside.

Poached Eggs.
Heaven knows, egg poaching can be daunting. I've tried every trick in the book. Michael gave me an egg poacher several years ago. At the time, I used it a lot because it was handy and useful.  In my egg world, there was something about that egg-poaching wonder that never jelled with me. The eggs came out perfectly every time, but they were tiny and a little too perfect. Perfectly perfect. Perfect little round uniformly poached eggs that had no verve. I always wanted poached eggs with attitude and spirit, so I gave up on the poacher and tried every other method. Ring molds. Cups. Large spoons. Ladles. I gave up on those, too. Back to basics.

I brought 4 cups of water to a simmer in a wide sauce pan, about 4 inches deep. When the water started to ripple, I added a splash of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Fresh eggs were key. Fresh egg simply poach better than supermarket eggs. After swirling the salt and vinegar into the simmering water, I cracked 3 (allowing for a mishap) Dutch Creek Farm eggs into individual ramekins before gently sliding them into the water. I used a large slotted spoon to coax the egg whites around the yolks to hold their shape while they steeped in the bubbling water. After 1 1/2 minutes, I carefully scooped the eggs onto a clean dish towel to drain and  gently patted them dry.

I warmed the reserved bacon fat over a medium flame and added 2 tablespoons of minced shallots. After sweating the shallots until they softened, I deglazed the skillet with 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and added 2 heaping tablespoons of sharp Maille dijon mustard. Within seconds, the vinaigrette emulsified. I pulled it from the heat and tossed the vinaigrette with the reserved bacon and chilled frilled mustard greens.

I tumbled the dressed greens over sourdough croutons, nestled the poached eggs into the frilly greens, and drizzled the eggs with extra virgin extra olive oil before finishing with snipped  flowering chives from my garden.

Hello revamped frisee salad. Back on the radar.

I knew it would be love at first bite the moment the warm yolk spilled from my jiggly egg, gurgled, and oozed through the greens before puddling into the vinaigrette. While the smoky tang of the warm dijon bacon dressing slightly wilted the lacy mustard greens, it also downplayed their inherent spiciness and cut through the richness of the farm fresh egg. I tried to be civil. It didn't last  long. When most of the greens were gone, I swiped the drenched crouton through the creamy yolk-infused vinaigrette and ate it with my bare hands. No apologies.

No frills.

No comments: