Monday, September 24, 2012

Frisée Salad

Frisée is a type of lettuce related to endives. It has curly leaves that start off as a pale yellow at the base and transitions to a vibrant green. They have a v. slightly bitter taste - not even close to the bitterness of radicchio - and I love the texture because they center stalks are crunchy but the soft leaves are delicate.

Frisée salad, as I've usually seen it, is usually served with bacon and some sort of acidic mustard-y dressing and eggs, either soft-boiled or poached. The eggs part sometimes seems like too much effort for a simple salad so I usually skip that but I always stay true to the bacon and mustard.

Ingredients [serves 4]
6 loosely packed cups of frisée
2 slices of bacon (or more if you like)
1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped (slivered almonds would be acceptable - I just don't like them myself)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon hot pepper jelly
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Here's the pretty frisée:
Start by cooking the bacon. I like to cook them in a tiny frying pan so I cut the strips in half to make them fit. Place bacon in a cold pan and turn the heat on medium high. Starting with a cold pan helps the bacon release a lot of fat and crisp up quickly without burning. Once the bacon's cooked, set it aside both the bacon pieces and the leftover rendered fat to cool.

To assemble the dressing, whisk together the dijon, red wine vinegar, pepper jelly, and honey until smooth. I love pepper jelly because it's sweet and spicy and vinegar-y and adds a lot of flavor to the dressing.
Once the ingredients are combined, slowly drizzle in the rendered bacon fat (about 1-1/2 tablespoons total) and whisk to combine. The result should be a slightly creamy dressing that's packed with flavor.
In a large bowl, assemble the salad. I put the greens in the bottom, sprinkle on the almonds, feta, raisins, and crumbled bacon.
Just before you're ready to serve, pour the dressing over the top and toss with tongs until the dressing is evenly distributed.
Serve and enjoy. I love the way the flavors and textures work in this salad: you get a crunch from the almonds, crisp and smoky flavors from the bacon, bursts of sweetness from the raisins, salty bites from the feta, a slightly bitter note from the greens, and it's all tied together with the tangy dressing.

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