Breakfast salad -- look at those two words standing next to each other. Such an ambiguous combination; potential for greatness and for failure. A breakfast salad could be an absolute health nightmare: all raw lettuces, with some kind of citrus juice squeezed on top, all crispness and liquid, with no heft and no flavor. What? It's not the kind of health nightmare you were expecting? Any doctor will tell you that a daily dose of protein and fat does nothing to harm your body and there's a reason those things are on the food pyramid, you know. I'm not the kind of girl who looks forward to a meager plate of greens for energy, but I love salads (and there is a place for big greeny salads, just not for breakfast) and I think I've found one good enough to run away with and marry: Jamie Oliver's All-Day Breakfast Salad.
The recipe is in Cook With Jamie Oliver and is delightfully easy to adapt to your every whim. He calls for crispy bacon and blood sausage. Don't freak out: if you haven't had blood sausage, it's delicious, and if you want to try it the easiest way is order the Irish breakfast at your closest Irish pub and restaurant (I recommend Ri Ra). It's the dark brown sausage patty. Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to come by in a grocery store. Feel free to substitute just about anything you want -– breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, bits of steak or pork, whatever. I just kept it simple with extra bacon.
Get yourself some frisee and some arugula (I got mine from the lettuce stand at the Dupont Farmers' Market and it was wonderful). Also pick up a loaf of bread (Italian white works well, and I bet sourdough is delicious) and contemplate letting it sit out for a night. I didn't, and my croutons turned out delicious, but in the recipe it's recommended. Finally, make sure you have olive oil, white wine vinegar (cider vinegar is a passable substitute) and mild mustard for the dressing. Oh, and eggs. What's breakfast without eggs?
My All-Day Breakfast Salad (Adapted from COOK with Jamie Oliver)
For the salad:
1 bunch frisee (or “curly endive”)
1 bunch arugula
6 slices of thick-cut bacon
1/3 loaf of bread (your choice)
1 egg per salad
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
Wash and dry your leaves well, you want to avoid any wateriness in this deliciously rich salad. Put a pot of water on the stove to poach your eggs. Add one cap-full of white distilled vinegar to the water to aid in the poaching, and let the water heat on almost you're highest setting. Do not let it boil – you want it to be super-hot, but no bubbles. It should take about 20 minutes to come to temperature. Cut the strips of bacon into smaller pieces and add to a hot frying pan to fry. Fry them like you cook your bacon normally, letting all the fat render out and the bacon get crispy. As that's happening, cut up your bread into crouton-sized cubes. When the bacon is almost done cooking, add the bread into the pan and fry in the bacon, letting them get nice and crispy. When they're done, remove them from the pan into a bowl and set them aside.
Now is a good time to make the dressing. Combine the white wine vinegar and mustard (I use Dijon mustard, you can use whatever kind you prefer for your vinaigrettes, and Jamie recommends fiery English mustard) in a bowl or a jar; slowly pour in the oil as you whisk to create a nice emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set that aside as well, preferably next to your greens in their big bowl.
When the water is piping hot, put an egg in your left hand and a slotted spoon in your right. Stir the water in a circle quickly with the slotted spoon until you form a vortex in the middle. Moving very quickly, take the spoon out and crack the egg into the center of that vortex (the spinning water will help keep the white together as it first sets in the hot water). Poach for 3-3.5 minutes, for a soft poach (meaning a runny yolk). While the egg is cooking (do not let it overcook, you need that runny yolk), mix together in a bowl the greens, the bacon, the croutons, and the dressing. Making sure to get a good bit of all the different elements, plate individually. When the egg is done (the yolk should be soft to the touch), lift it gently out of the water with a slotted spoon. Let it rest on the spoon for a moment and give it a gentle shake to get as much water off as possible, then carefully place it on top of the salad. Cut the yolk immediately with a knife to let the fatty goodness ooze all over the salad. Mix around, and enjoy!
I can't even tell you how much I love this salad. And if you don't happen to have bacon and bread handy at the moment, but you're itching to try it, it works perfectly well with just greens, dressing, and egg!