- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Frisee with bacon and goat cheese: This is the salad I love to serve in the winter months.

It reminds me of the year I lived in Paris and would sneak into cozy crowded bistros for lunch. Often, I would order a simple frisee salad with crisp bacon cubes and a perfectly poached egg sitting on top — a wonderful combination of flavors.

I’ve also enjoyed my share of bistro-style salads with fresh goat cheese tucked into seasonal greens along with freshly toasted garlic croutons. A basket of French bread and a glass of red wine … and my world was perfect.

In a sense, I have melded all of those delicious salads into this classic crowd-pleaser. In this offering, you have a crispy round of warm goat cheese atop a mix of wild-looking frisee greens and mahogany bacon pieces, cloaked with a warm shallot-and-red-wine dressing.

Sometimes mistaken for escarole that has broad leaves, frisee is really curly endive with frilly, slightly peppery leaves. This member of the chicory family — which also includes radicchio and Belgian endive — has white roots and green, spiky leaves. Ask your green grocer to point it out if you’re not sure what it looks like.

This is the salad to serve if you are looking for salad with a little oomph. Serve this as a main course for lunch or a first course for dinner.

You can mix and match as much as you like. Use spinach instead of frisee, or crisp up some pancetta slices instead of bacon, or change the goat cheese to shards of nutty sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can’t go wrong with this warm salad of complementary flavors.

Help is on the way:

• Make sure to select a log of goat cheese so you can easily slice it into individual discs.

• Use good-quality red wine vinegar.

• If you’re in the mood for soup and salad, serve this with a bowl of French onion soup or your favorite vegetable soup.

• Substitute a warm poached egg for the goat cheese over each salad.

• You can double this recipe.

• Add favorite croutons to the salad.

Frisee salad with bacon and goat cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup French-bread bread crumbs or panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

8 ounces fresh goat cheese

2 heads frisee lettuce (curly endive or chicory), cored and leaves torn into 3-inch pieces

3/4 pound thick bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces (lardons)

2 shallots, finely chopped

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spoon oil into one bowl and the bread crumbs into another.

Cut cheese into 4 equal rounds. With tongs, dip the cheese into olive oil and then roll in bread crumbs; put on shallow baking dish, Refrigerate for 1 hour.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake goat cheese for 10 minutes, until brown on the outside and soft on the inside.

Meanwhile, place the lettuce leaves in a large salad bowl.

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, cook the bacon pieces, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure the bacon does not burn. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the shallots and saute another minute or until softened. Add the red wine vinegar and simmer on medium heat another minute, or until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the warm dressing over the salad greens along with the bacon and toss to coat evenly. Divide the greens among salad bowls or shallow soup bowls. Make sure there is an even amount of bacon in each salad. Place a goat cheese wedge on top and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings as an entree or 6 as a first course.

Advance preparation: Cheese may be breaded up to 6 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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