Springtime "Salade Lyonnaise"

        From the blog For Love of the Table

For one person (multiply as needed):

1 1/2 to 2 oz. (1 slice thick or extra thick bacon), cut crosswise in 1/2- to 1-inch pieces

2 to 4 oz. (trimmed weight) asparagus, cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths on a short diagonal

1/4 c. (about 1 oz.) walnuts

2 handfuls (about 2 to 2 1/2 oz.) lettuce (try to include some crisper greens as well as something a bit bitter)

1 large egg, at room temperature

Vinaigrette, to taste (below)

 

Place the bacon in a non-stick pan set over moderate to medium-low heat.  Cook, tossing/stirring occasionally until the fat is mostly rendered and the bacon is golden.  It should be chewy, not crisp.  Transfer to paper towels to drain and set the pan aside.

 

While the bacon cooks, toast the walnuts in a 350° oven until fragrant and golden—about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  When cool enough to handle, break into medium pieces.  If you like, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with salt.  Blanch the asparagus until just tender in a pot of boiling salted water (about 2 to 5 minutes).  Lift out and spread on towels to cool.

 

When the bacon, asparagus and walnuts are ready, poach the egg: add a tablespoon of vinegar to a quart of simmering water (in a heavy bottomed sauce pan).  Crack the egg into a ramekin and gently tip it into the water.  Don’t let the water boil or even really simmer.  If you have an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the water should be about 200°.  Let the egg stay in the water until the yolk is just beginning to thicken.  This should take about four minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the egg out of its poaching bath and give it a gentle poke with your finger. It should be springy/bouncy…but not firm…I think 4 minutes is about perfect.  (If you have never poached an egg, check out my “how to”/basics post.)

 

While the egg is poaching, place the greens in a bowl and season with salt & pepper.  Just before the egg is done, dress everything….drizzling with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and tossing well with your hands.  You may dress the asparagus, walnuts and bacon separately…or add them to the bowl with the lettuce and toss everything together. If you like, you may drizzle in some of the bacon fat, too.  Mound everything on a plate, leaving a little divot in the center to hold the egg. 

 

When the egg is done to your liking, use a slotted spoon to lift it out of the poaching liquid.  I like to give the egg a gentle blot with a paper towel, but it isn’t strictly necessary.  Place the egg on the salad, season it with salt and pepper and drizzle a bit more vinaigrette, or bacon fat (or both) over the whole salad.  Serve right away.

 

Additions:

  • Add 3 or 4 oz. of roasted new or fingerling potatoes to the salad.
  • Since I don’t add croutons to this version of the salad, I like to serve it with buttered toast. Choose a nice, hearty, artisanal bread for your toast.

 

Vinaigrette:

2 T. red wine vinegar

1 T. sherry vinegar

3 to 4 T. minced shallot

2 t. Dijon mustard

1/2 to 3/4 t. Kosher salt

1/2 c. olive oil

 

Place the vinegars and shallots in a small bowl (or in the cup of an immersion blender if you would like a smooth, well-emulsified vinaigrette).  Let sit for 5 minutes or so to give the shallots a chance to soften.  Add the Dijon and a half teaspoon of kosher salt.  Whisk (or blend) until the Dijon is completely incorporated.  Add the oil in a thin stream while whisking (blending) constantly.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt.  

 

If you made the vinaigrette with the blender, it will remain emulsified.  If you used a whisk, it will need re-whisking prior to use.  The dressing keeps well for several days in the fridge.  If it solidifies (transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid), soften by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water.  Re-whisk before using.