Certain restaurants make it almost impossible for me not to order certain things. When I am at a diner, I order Greek Salad, almost without fail. Largely in part because if I am with my kids, as I often are when a diner is involved, there is a strong likelihood that whatever they order will come with fries, so that part of things is taken care of.
When I go to a bistro I always want the moules frites (perhaps you’re noticing a thread here), and to start I can’t think of anything I want more than that classic bistro salad, piles of somewhat bitter lettuce (add frisee if you like it), chunky lardons of crisp (but not too crisp) bacon, a vinegary-ey vinaigrette, some goat cheese, a toasted piece of baguette.
You can marinate the goat cheese for up to 24 hours, and then magically the marinade becomes the salad dressing, with the addition of just a touch more sherry vinegar. If you don’t need all of the dressing, you can store it in a jar in the fridge for another few days.
This is one of the very few times you will see a plated salad (or a plated anything) on this blog. 99% of the time I am plunking down a big platter or bowl of whatever I’ve made, and everyone helps themselves. In the case of this salad, it’s a little fun and a lot pretty to set up individual plates ahead of time.
And perhaps a poached egg to pop, allowing the velvety yolk to run in the nooks and crannies of the lettuce, rich fattiness becoming one with the vinegary dressing. Poaching eggs can be intimidating but I learned this technique for making an egg with basically the same consistency from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (you all have that book don’t you? If not, buy it right away).
Bring a pot of water to a boil, poke a pinhole in the fatter side of an egg (as many as you need) and lower the eggs into the boiling water. Set the timer for 5 minutes, 5 minutes 30 seconds max. When the beeper beeps, drain the eggs and run them under cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the eggs and split one open one each salad, letting the runny yolk be free to mingle with the salad.
My kids who love eggs had NO interest in an egg on their salads, by the way.
Bistro Salad with Warm Goat Cheese
- ½ cup olive oil plus more for brushing
- ¼ cup slivered basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar divided
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 12 3/4-inch slices soft goat cheese
- 12 slices baguette
- 1 romaine heart thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 heads Belgian endive thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 bunch arugula washed and dried, thick stems discarded
- 1 cup thickly sliced thick-cut cooked bacon warmed if possible
- Marinate the cheeses: Whisk the oil, basil, shallots, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the goat cheeses in a shallow nonmetallic dish. Pour the marinade over the cheeses. Cover and refrigerate for about 24 hours. Remove the goat cheeses from the marinade, gently scraping off the herbs back into the marinade and reserving the marinade for the dressing.
- When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush the slices of baguette with olive oil. Spread on the baking sheet and bake about 4 minutes, until just barely crisp and golden. Remove the bread and set aside. Preheat the broiler.
- Toss the romaine, endive and arugula in a bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of sherry vinegar to the reserved marinade. Toss the lettuces with the reserved marinade, then divide the salad between 6 plates. Place the broiler rack close to the source of the heat and preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet aluminum foil and spray with non stick cooking spray. Place the goat cheese circles on the prepared pan. Broil for about 3 minutes or until the cheeses are just starting to melt. Transfer each cheese to a piece of toasted baguette and place on the side of one of the plates. Sprinkle over the bacon, dividing it evenly between the plates.
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