Herb Salad with Egg Yolk Dressing & Bacon Fat Croutons

I love frisée salads with lardons, poached egg and perfectly crispy croutons. This recipe encapsulates all those French elements, plus some.

This salad is all about indulgence.

I bought a crazy good cheese from Whole Foods – Brebirousse D’Argental – and felt the need to share this discovery. It was the bright orange rind drew me in.

Goat_Cheese.JPG

Brebirousse D’Argental

If you want a punchy, funky cheese with a wow factor, this is your cheese. It’s flavorful in all the right ways. And, it liquefies in a matter of minutes after sitting at room temperature. I want that quality in my cheese, to be clear. Any fresh goat cheese would be wonderful in this recipe though, so stick with your favorite.

If you can get a fat slab of pork fat, which I couldn’t find, this is going to be that much better. I went with the highest-quality, thickest bacon I could find.

cheesecubes

Can we talk about bacon fat croutons?  Yes, French baguette croutons broiled in garlic, olive oil and sea salt are addictive. But these are next-level good. And take a lot less time, if you’re already going through the hassle of browning bacon.

If you’re anything like me, it takes time for me to establish new cooking habits – especially extra steps that seem like added work, but I know are worth the payoff. I always thank my past self for the effort.

Think – re-using frying oil, saving Reggiano rinds, grinding your own spices, regularly preparing chicken and beef stock, and flavoring batches of olive oil. In the case of bacon fat, I’ve started to save a jar of it in the fridge, leftover from previous frying sessions. I use it instead of butter in dishes that are begging for a bacon boost. A spoonful packs a whopping punch.

The key to this salad though, is the combination of the runny egg yolk and the basic vinaigrette. The simplicity of the dressing emphasizes the in-your-face richness of the other ingredients in this salad – the heavy goat cheese, crispy bacon fat, and croutons browned in said bacon fat.

If you aren’t enthused about eating raw scallion stalk, chives would work just as well here. But I have a feeling there are others out there who like raw scallion flavor as much as I do. Slightly less harsh than biting into fresh onion, and much more herbaceous. Plus, it adds to the greenery of the salad.

What are some of your favorite French bistro salads?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 as a main course.

  • 4 cups mustard greens or frisee lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallion stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • 6 oz. goat cheese, of your choosing, crumbled or cubed
  • 1 medium heirloom tomato, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups French baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 endive, leaves removed
  • 1 / 2 lb. bacon or lardons, cut into small cubes
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Whisk the Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the bacon in a skillet. Brown until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. While still on low heat, add the cubed bread to the pan with the bacon drippings. Toast the bread, tossing often, until crispy and golden brown. Remove the croutons from the heat, sprinkle liberally with salt, and set aside.
  4. Prepare the salad – in a large bowl, combine the mustard greens, parsley, scallions, goat cheese, heirloom tomato, endive, croutons and lardons. Toss with the dressing.
  5. Plate the salads, topping each with an egg yolk. Sprinkle the salads with salt, and serve immediately.

 

Cobb Salad Steak Sandwich

Cobb salads – where would we be without them? Besides Caesar salads, they are probably the salad I order most often if I’m in a green-eating mood at a restaurant.

Cobb salads are an inherently American dish. They are known to have originated in the 1920s when a restaurant owner, Robert Howard Cobb, waited until the end of a shift to pull together whatever leftover toppings he had on hand to make a filling salad. I can only imagine how good this must have tasted in a late night, post-booze binge.

You have your bacon and eggs – almost a nod to breakfast. Blue cheese, avocado and chicken are all protein-heavy and wholesome. And I believe there’s some magical flavor combination that’s achieved when you have the red onion, blue cheese, bacon and egg flavor all in one bite. These flavors go so well together – super harmonious.

I couldn’t remember ever having eaten these Cobb salad elements in anything other than a salad format. I’ve repeatedly fantasized about bringing Cobb salad deviled eggs to life, knowing that post is an imminent Hankerings recipe. And I love a good steak sandwich, so I knew I was headed in the right direction with this one.

I will always order extra dressing with any salad, and Cobb salads are no exception. It’s always blue cheese dressing on my salads. But here I went with a Dijon mayo. It goes great with the rare steak, and you’re getting the blue cheese crumbles on top, so we’re still checking the blue cheese box.

Speaking of salads-turned-sandwiches, if you haven’t tried it already, Ina Garten makes a mind-blowing Caesar Club Sandwich that not only tastes just like a really good Caesar salad enclosed in a giant crouton – it also comes with pancetta – which adds some serious crisp and melty, greasy pork flavor. I cannot emphasize enough how good that sandwich tastes, and I encourage you to try it when the mood hits you.

Here’s to reinventing our favorite salads – the only limit is our imagination! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 filet mignon
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 / 4 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, cut to a chiffonade
  • 1 / 2 cup blue cheese crumbles, of your choosing
  • 1 small red heirloom tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 / 2 avocado, pit removed, sliced thin lengthwise
  • 2 airy rolls, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 / 4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Dry the filet with a paper towel, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Put the filet in the pan, and sear on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes on all sides, until the meat is seared and crispy.
  4. Put the filet in the oven, roasting for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on size, until the meat thermometer reads 145* for rare.
  5. Remove the steak, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once slightly cooled, slice the filet against the grain.
  6. Combine the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and set aside.
  7. To prepare the sandwiches, spread 2 tablespoons of the Dijon mayo mixture on both sides of the roll. Layer half the steak, romaine, tomato, red onion, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, and bacon. Layer the second sandwich. Cut sandwiches in half, and serve.

Pickled Jalapenos

With my first batch of pickles done, I knew I had opened the flood gates for a barrage of new pickling endeavors. I always have store-bought ones in my fridge, so I was excited to see what they would taste like making them at home.

After the Carolina Reaper cukes – it had to be a pepper. And I put pickled jalapenos in everything, so it was a natural next step.

I knowingly overdo it with garlic. So my pickled vegetables will probably always have a heavy garlic vibe going on – including these jalapenos.

The other pickling ingredient I wanted to try out was mustard seed. Black peppercorns are a necessity according to what I read online – but I love mustard flavor, and figured that extra spicy punch might jive with the jalapenos.  It did. I want to slowly try new pickling spices as I go – to be able to see what each spice does for the batch. If I added too many at once, I don’t know that I’d be able to taste what each spice is doing to the brining liquid.

Mustard seed added a complex flavor. A little bit like what you’d taste with cornichon – which automatically made me think of pickled vegetables you’d find on a cheese plate.

I also upped the brininess of the pickling liquid here – adding more vinegar, salt and sugar. It helped pickle the jalapenos a bit quicker, I think, and the flavor was punchier. Not everyone is a fan of the brine factor, but for those who are, this ups that yummy sour factor that only vinegar can give you.

Next vegetable to pickle? Who knows. It’ll probably come to me when I’m least expecting it. But I do have a very large, stalky ginger root in my pantry right now… 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 32. oz jar of pickles.

  • 6 jalapenos, tops removed, cut into slices
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • Small handful of black peppercorns
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 stems parlsey leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar, plus 1 / 4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon sugar, plus 1 / 2 teaspoon

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Let the pickling liquid cool.
  2. Put the jalapenos, peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic and parsley in a large mason jar. Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the jalapenos and other ingredients. Seal the jar, and put in the fridge to pickle for 5 to 7 days.

Ahi Tuna with Asian Barbecue Dipping Sauce

Ina Garten’s recipe for Barbecue Sauce includes Asian and Mexican flavors like soy sauce and chili powder – giving the sauce a more rounded edge. I love the idea of hybrid cuisines – and the Mexican Asian fusion restaurants I see continuing to pop up here in D.C. mean it must be a crowd-pleasing combo. Chorizo potstickers, anyone?

The way her story goes, she made three sauces – a traditional barbecue sauce, an Asian barbecue sauce and a Mexican barbecue sauce. Instead of selecting one, she figured, why not just mix them together?

Here, I honed in on perfecting the Asian barbecue sauce – that brings out Asian flavors and condiments, while still having that traditional barbecue sauce color, consistency and caramelized brown sugar goodness.

Mixed with Kewpie mayo, you’re in for a hell of a lot of spicy, sweet, salty and fishy undertones in a silky dipping sauce. It’s the perfect palate pleaser to go along with a ruby rare Ahi tuna steak, sliced thick.

I’m in the midst of taking a food safety manager class in order to be able to cook in commercial kitchens. I knew it would open my eyes to the sheer number of food-borne illnesses that, if you were a play-it-safe kind of person, might lead you to eat boiled rice for the rest of your life.

But when it comes to something as good as rare Ahi tuna, I’m always willing to take that risk. No amount of facts and statistics are going to sway me to order a well-done cheeseburger. Or avoid those $1 oyster specials.

I think all of us unpasteurized cheese-eating, raw seafood tower indulgers show a true love for food every time we place that order or buy that ingredient. That’s living if I’ve ever seen it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 as an appetizer.

  • 1 lb. Ahi tuna steak

F o r  t h e  M a r i n a d e

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon powdered wasabi
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  A s i a n  B a r b e c u e  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

Makes 2 cups.

  • 1 / 2 can tomato paste
  • 1 / 3 cup ketchup
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 / 2 small medium white onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Kewpie mayo, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a snug, shallow dish. Marinate the Ahi tuna steak for as long as possible, preferably 1 hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper, and saute until the onions are completely translucent, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for additional 1 minute. Proceed to add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the Kewpie mayo. Stir until all ingredients are fully combined. Simmer on low to medium heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce is reduced slightly.
  3. Allow to cool. Combine equal parts Kewpie mayo and barbecue sauce until you reach your desired amount of dipping sauce, mixing until the sauce is uniform throughout. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, if desired. Chill the sauce in the fridge while you prepare the tuna.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet with a coating of olive oil. Remove the tuna from the marinade, and place in the hot pan. For a rare finish, cook the tuna for 90 seconds on each side.
  5. Remove the steak immediately from the pan, and slice thick against the grain. Serve alongside the dipping sauce. Eat immediately.

 

Pickle-Brined Fish & Chips

I’ve never brined a protein before – and after this recipe, I’m regretting not experimenting with brining sooner.

I’ve only heard the pros of the brining method, mostly from people who regularly brine their Thanksgiving turkeys. Perfumes meat with desired flavors. Keeps meat juicy and tenderized. Imparts perfect level of saltiness.

All of these held true for the brine I soaked the cod in for these fish and chips. Except I didn’t use anything elegant along the lines of an orange peel, thyme and cardamom-infused brine.  Although that sounds like a good idea.

I used dill pickle juice.

Being careful to keep the cod’s dignity intact, the brine used wasn’t the Yellow 5-dyed stuff from a jar, but leftover from the dill pickles I made a few weeks back (brining liquid instructions per that recipe, excluding the hot peppers).

With time to spare before subjecting my stovetop to yet another splattering frying session, I threw the cod in the pickle juice and allowed it to soak for a few hours.

It wasn’t the pickles that you tasted in the fish meat – I primarily tasted the garlic. Remember, the tartar sauce has a pickle thing going on already, so you are getting a double pickle hit. I welcome this with open arms.

Is it just me, or are fish and chips that much better when you’re holding the scalding hot pieces of fish in a flimsy, poorly-executed paper cone while the grease drips onto your shirt and pants? While there are plates, forks and knives in your kitchen that you could use?

Infinitely better tasting, is where I was going with that. I don’t know why that is.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  B r i n e

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • Approximately 10 cloves garlic, smashed & skins removed
  • Approximately 20 stems fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

F o r  t h e  T a r t a r  S a u c e

  • 1 / 3 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 dill pickle spear, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r  t h e  F i s h

  • 4 to 6 4 oz. pieces fresh cod fillet
  • Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

F o r  t h e  C h i p s

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 2 stems thyme, leaves removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar on the stovetop until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the peppercorns, dill and garlic and allow to cool to room temperature. Once room temperature, place the cod in the brining liquid, leaving in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours to soak.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  3. Cut the potatoes into spears, and place on a sheet pan. Toss with a coating of olive oil, a large pinch of salt, a large pinch of pepper, the thyme and the minced garlic. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and tender, tossing once to maintain even cooking.
  4. Combine the tartar sauce ingredients. Set in the fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Combine the flour, garlic powder, and black pepper. Toss the cod fillets in the flour, then back into the brine, then back into the flour mixture, setting the pieces of fish on a clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a skillet so there are 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches of oil in the pan. Once frying temperature (test oil with a pinch of flour to see if it starts to sizzle), place the cod in the oil, waiting to flip the fish only after the underside is a golden brown.
  7. Serve the fish and chips hot, in rolled newspaper or parchment paper, if desired, along with the tartar sauce.