I had the most inspirational day with the lovely and talented Patricia van Essche. You may know her as PVE. Or you may know her as the talented hand which pens the lively and colorful J.McLaughlin illustrations. Her whimsical artwork has caught the attention of many, including the discerning eyes of Town & Country. Long before she was PVE she was a designer and design director for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. To be with her, to be in her studio is to truly be inspired.
After sharing some wonderful tips she learned recently while on a conference in London, we chatted briefly in regards to a small collaboration which was followed by a delightful tour through some of the Hudson River towns in Westchester County, New York and a lovely lunch at Red Hat on the River in Irvington, New York. I've had several lunches with Patricia before and we generally tend to order the Salade Nicoise. But today was rainy with a chill in the air, and so we both chose differently. On the menu was one of my favorites, the Salade Frisee aux Lardons. Curly endive is dressed in a wonderfully aromatic and typically French Dijon Vinaigrette on which a warm and perfectly coddled poached egg perches on top. Bits of lardons decorated my plate. Similar to bacon and pancetta, lardons are strips or cubed bits of meat from the belly of the pig. They are cooked to a crisp perfection.
The warm egg was perfectly comforting today and the rich tangy flavor of the vinaigrette brought me back to my youth - my summers in France when salads were as much a part of my diet as my sandwiche au saucisson or jambon beurre. Salads were always made with Dijon vinaigrette - were only made with Dijon Vinaigrette. And much like music brings us back to moments of our past, food does the same.
RECIPE for Salade Frisee aux Lardons (Adapted from The New York Times)
4 large handfuls tender, pale curly endive - remove outer leaves
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick lardons
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon finely grated garlic or 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
12 thin slices from a French baguette - about a half to 3/4 inches thick - lightly toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove
Wash and thoroughly dry the endive. Set aside in a bowl.
In a small skillet, simmer bacon for about 5 minutes in a small amount of water. Drain the bacon and dry the skillet. Cook bacon over medium to medium-high heat until browned and crisp.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and garlic, then slowly add the olive oil. The dressing will emulsify (thicken). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (If the dressing separates, simply whisk it back again. I always make my dressings in jars and then give the jar a generous shake prior to adding the dressing to the salad.)
To make the egg. Fill a medium-sided skillet about 3/4 of the way to the top with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Crack each egg into a cup and very carefully lower into the water. Poach the eggs for about 3 to 4 minutes/ You'll notice the whites have set and the yolks will still be soft. Then carefully, with a slotted spoon, remove the eggs, one at a time, and place them onto a towel-lined plate to absorb the excess water.
Add the vinaigrette to the endive making sure that the lettuce is well coated. If needed season with additional salt and pepper. Divide the dressed greens equally onto 4 plates. Place an egg in center of each salad pile, and spoon the warm lardons over each salad. Add 3 of the baguette toasts to each plate.