Yeah. I know. Lettuce. Blah. Lots of chewing. Blah.
This salad is actually kind of interesting because its parts all sort of blend together and make a nice, rich dressing at the bottom of the bowl, perfect for dipping those nice cinnamon raison rolls dabbed lightly in butter.
Get some mixed greens. Wash ’em. Even if the package says pre-washed, wash ’em. You have no idea what they’ve washed those greens with before they stuck them in the bag. Could be irradiated water to keep the greens “fresh,” could be some foul water source downstream from a cow pasture. Could be unfiltered and have lots of sand and grit. Regardless. Wash ’em.
Slice up whatever fresh fruit you have on hand and toss it in. I like strawberries, hulled, peaches, skinned and pitted, and champagne grapes. I found those at the market today. Beautiful and tiny and very very tasty. Leave them on the vine, and let your teeth and lips gently pull them away. Delicious.
I paid a little trip to Red Apron, a butcher at Union Market in Washington, DC. If you are watching Cooking Channel and those people start talking about some strange sausage or cut of meat and the recipe looks like something you’d like to try, you should pop over there. They are a bit pricey, but the quality is good. I bought some guanciale, which is a cut of pork from a pig’s jowl. Its very fatty and tender and delicious. I also bought some pancetta, which is Italian-method cured bacon. Its not smoked. I threw them both into a hot pan and smoked up the house. The chorus of smoke detectors going off gave the dog fits, but she really should be used to it by now, as I do like a screaming-hot pan to give meat a sear. Lots of the pork fat rendered away. I drain this into mason jars, because you never know when you have some par-boiled potatoes and onion just laying around that needs to become home-fries. I put the porks on paper towel to drain off.
In a nice chef’s pan (rounded sides to allow for a whisk to do its job without being jammed into the corners of a standard sauce pan). I filled it halfway with water, put in a generous 2 pinches of salt, and grabbed some tarragon vinegar and put in about a quarter cup. I let this come to a nice rolling boil. With a wooden spoon, stir until the liquid sets up an eddy around the pan. You’ll need this to make sure your poached eggs bunch up instead of going all wispy like the lady of the lake. Gently stir the water while your eggs cook until they are as solid as you like them. I’m not partial to runny whites at all but I do like the yolks loose. Be advised, eating undercooked eggs puts you at risk for Salmonella, but as for me, I like to live dangerously, so I eat loose yolks all the time.
Fish your poached eggs out of the water and put them in a bowl. I like three of them in a salad.
Out to the back deck where tarragon is growing in the herb garden pots. If you have a ledge or a deck and you cook, growing a few herbs is probably a good idea. Its cheaper than those bunches of sad dry herbs at the supermarket, and much more fresh, so the flavors are intense.
Take a bit of that rendered pork fat and a bit of the vinegar and mix them up. Toss the leaves lightly in the mixture, then add the rest of your ingredients. top with sliced up guanciale and pancetta and the three poached eggs and tear up some of the tarragon over the eggs. Lightly pepper. The porks are salty, so you probably won’t need more so taste it before you touch that salt shaker.
When you cut into the poached eggs, the yolks will mix with the tarragon vinegar and the pork fat and make a really nice, rich sort of dressing. Make sure you have some bread handy. Once you are finished with your salad, the sauce in the bottom of the bowl is great for dipping in some toast or rolls.