All that talk of forgoing mushrooms and bacon for love...and here I give you a salad with warm mushroom bacon vinaigrette? Let me explain myself. I'm a hot-blooded, human girl. I have needs.
Bacon and mushroom needs. Creamy red leaf lettuce tossed with shallots, warm cremini mushrooms, sherry vinegar, bacon, and fresh herbs, sprinkled with Amish blue cheese, and topped with a poached egg: this salad was my afternoon tryst, my little something on the side. I ate it slowly sitting cross-legged at the dining room table to the sounds of Leonard Cohen's dulcet voice and my fork clinking on the plate. Nothing but pale smudges of egg yolk and the odd pepper flake remained. I'm not sorry, and I'd do it again.
This salad is intuitive. When asked to describe my cooking style I often refer to it as equal parts grandma and grand-mére, and this is a reflection of that, mixing elements from the French classic "friseé aux lardons" and the trailer park tradition from the American south, a wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing and bacon (both personal favorites). This combination of ingredients requires no epiphany. It's not a subtle arrangement and wants for nothing in regards to flavor. It's salty, tart, smokey, earthy, creamy, crisp, fresh, herbacious, umami.... shall I go on? It's a meal in and of itself, and with a hunk of crusty bread it would be a hearty meal. Hmm. Which just made me realize this salad would make a fantastic sandwich. Crusty bread, crisp lettuce, bacon, egg (fried over easy perhaps), blue cheese, mushrooms, a nice lemony herbed aioli, and once tomatoes come into season...Yes. A dressed up BLT with places to go (my mouth).
Salads of any sort become exponentially better the fresher your ingredients are, and shopping for what you can at the farmer's market will ensure that you have the freshest, most flavorful ingredients. I had this rather voluptuous head of red leaf lettuce from Circle S Farms at the Main St. Farmer's Market, but I would also really like to try this with arugula and/or friseé, maybe a duck, guinea, or quail egg, and some chanterelles. Lardons, pancetta, or proscuitto would play nice too. So would tomatoes. The basic profile of this salad allows for plenty of experimenting and substitution, and vegetarians fret not: if you aren't a craven bacon eater such as myself, you won't miss it. But I would have.
This recipes is an approximation as generally the only measurement I use when cooking is a "delicious looking amount". Adjust according to your preferences and availability of ingredients. I made this as a large salad for one.
Salad With Warm Bacon Mushroom Vinaigrette and Poached Egg
• 2 cups of greens (I used red leaf because it's what I had on hand)
• 1/2 tsp chopped chives, plus more for garnish
• 1/2 tsp roughly chopped fresh thyme
• 5 cremini mushrooms, washed, stemmed, and sliced
• 1/2 small shallot, diced
• 2 slices of bacon
• 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
• 1 fresh egg
• 1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
• 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
• 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
• olive oil (optional)
• sea salt salt
• fresh cracked pepper
Wash and dry greens and tear or cut them into bite sized pieces.
Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, blot, and set aside. Add shallot to bacon grease and cook, stirring, one minute. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 T sherry vinegar (a nice red or white wine vinegar works well here too). Boil for 5 seconds. Remove from heat.
Bring a sauce pan half full of water to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar. Crack your egg into a small saucer or cup. Stir the water vigorously with a spoon or whisk to create a vortex in the center. Gently tip the egg into the vortex and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk is still runny.
Crumble or slice bacon into roughly 1/4 inch pieces and add back to the mushroom pan. Heat the mushrooms and bacon on med low to warm while the egg poaches. Add a small splash of good olive oil if the pan looks to dry to you. Taste and adjusting seasoning using vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Remove egg with a slotted spoon, blot dry on paper towels, and season with a pinch of sea salt salt and freshly grated pepper.
Pour warm vinaigrette over greens, sprinkle with blue cheese and fresh herbs, top with the egg, garnish with chives, and serve immediately.