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poached egg on bacon and dressed salad

Here’s a classic salad, a perfect combination of fresh flavours and naughty indulgence.

Think of it as a twist on a “Full Irish” – rashers and a well dressed salad, topped with a soft poached egg. And as it happens to be (sort of) green, white and orange, it’d make a perfect breakfast for Paddy’s Day.

1. The greens

Gather your greens. Perhaps it’s the last of the winter salad greens at this time of year, or the first of the wild lamb’s lettuce.

For a touch of bitterness you could mix in some chicory or rocket, or – this is very French – dandelion leaves while they are still young and relatively sweet. Avoid more watery lettuce leaves such as iceberg.

Wash and dry.

2. The dressing

Make the salad dressing, lots of it. I won’t tell you how, but we can assume it begins with a mix of the following to taste:

  • A good, peppery extra virgin olive oil
  • A squeeze of lemon or the same amount of a mild vinegar
  • A hint of Dijon mustard

For extra kick, you might add a couple of finely chopped anchovy fillets and a hint of soy sauce. If you are a garlic fiend, mash some up too and add it to the mix. Better still, have some already slow-roasted garlic to hand. It is sweeter and far more gentle than the raw.

3. The bacon

Fry some lardons with a dash of olive oil until crispy. Remove from the frying pan.

No lardons? Some alternatives are:

  • Cubed or sliced chorizo
  • Slices of bacon or prosciutto, either cut up before frying, or crushed into smaller pieces after frying

Another option if you are a black pudding fiend is to fry some too, either as rounds or in crumbs.

As for sausages, if you really really really want to go there I’d suggest squeezing out the sausage meat and discarding the casing, adding a little chopped fresh sage, then forming the mixture into small rounds – a bit like mini meatballs – and frying them.

4. The croutons

Cut some slices of bread – white, slightly stale – into crouton-size cubes or even larger – rough and rustic is fine.

Lightly fry them in the same pan as you did the bacon in.

(Or if you want to cut down on the grease factor, drizzle with ordinary olive oil and toast them in the oven, turning once or twice so that all sides are beginning to  brown.)

You only want the croutons ever so lightly toasted so that the outsides are beginning to crisp but the insides still have good moppability. For this particular dish, a high level of moppabilitiness (Google sez: “No results containing all your search terms were found”) is essential.

5. The eggs

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, turn it down to a gentle simmer and poach at least one egg per person – preferably organic and free range – until the white is firm but the yolk still soft.

If cooking for a crowd, do that old cheffy trick: pre-cook each egg, halt the cooking process by lowering it with a slotted spoon into a bowl of water and ice, then reheat all the eggs at the very end when needed.

6. The plating up

Mix the croutons, bacon and salad leaves, dress them well with the salad dressing, put a pile on each plate, making sure that everyone gets enough croutons and bacon. Top each pile with a poached egg, still runny and warm, sprinkle on the freshly ground black pepper, and everybody stands up to sing Amhrán na bhFiann.

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