I must preface this post by reaffirming the fact that I am not a salad person. Sure, I like the occasional taco salad or Caesar salad dripping in creamy dressing, but if you give me the choice between carbs and raw vegetables mixed with vinaigrette, I will choose carbs every time. I say this to drive home the point that it’s completely mind-boggling that I came home from New Orleans pining for not one, but two, salads. Yes, I was wowed by the beignets and the fried seafood sandwiches. But that’s to be expected. It was unexpected that one of the best meals I had was at an unassuming brassiere called Lüke that Alasdair suggested we stop into for a quick afternoon snack. We tried a bowl of their crab bisque, some raw oysters, and the slow poached yard egg salad with chicory, Allan Benton’s bacon and Creole mustard vinaigrette. I know a salad seems like an unusual afternoon snack, especially for me, but all I could see were the words ”slow poached yard egg” and “bacon.” My stomach was growling and those words were like flashing lights on the Vegas strip - they completed obliterated the word “salad.” I’m glad they did, otherwise, I may never have tried this amazing dish.
So, of course, I decided on the spot – just as I did with the shrimp Caesar salad – that I had to come home and recreate the poached egg salad. And I did. And it was wonderful. Seeing as how the salad was already pretty healthy, any swaps I made were for practicality reasons. I used diced pancetta in place of the thick bacon and arugula instead of chicory because my grocery store does not carry Allan Benton’s amazingly thick bacon or chicory. Also, the arugula is more substantial than the chicory so the salad becomes more of a meal. I also added some Pecorino-Romano – my favorite sheep’s milk cheese of the moment. This salad looks fancy but it could not have been easier to make. It’s perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner. Here’s how you can do it.
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (you only need a little because the pancetta is very salty)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups arugula
1 cup diced pancetta
1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the first 11 ingredients (paprika through salt) in a small bowl and whisk until combined to make the Creole mustard vinaigrette.
While whisking, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil until emulsified.
Poach the eggs. I cheated and used an egg poacher but if you want to poach the eggs the real way, smitten kitchen gives great instructions: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/how-to-poach-an-egg-smitten-kitchen-style/. The eggs should cook until the yolk is creamy.
Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat and cook the pancetta for about 5 minutes or until it starts to crisp and brown.
Mix 1/4 cup of the Creole mustard vinaigrette with the arugula. (You can add more later if you want but the dressing is strong so start with just a little and see how it tastes.) Pile one cup of arugula on each of four plates. Top each pile with one poached egg. Sprinkle 1/4 of a cup of pancetta on each salad. Then top with Pecorino-Romano. Finally, add a little freshly ground black pepper.
Healthy Recipe Ecstasy? Without a doubt. The creaminess of the poached egg yolk combines with the tanginess of the Creole mustard vinaigrette and the saltiness of the pancetta for a party in your mouth. It’s so good, never once did I miss bread. I would eat this for breakfast! And then again for lunch and dinner…. Also, the cheese can easily be left out for a completely dairy-free dish.