Goat cheese posed delicately on toast sitting atop gutsy greens that are dressed with a highly-flavored vinaigrette, is one of the finest French contributions to the culinary world. If that sounds rather dramatic it is, for this salad is drama on a plate, combining favorite flavors and textures, and the healthful crunch of lively salad greens.
One of the pantheon of “salads composées” or composed salads which are so typically a plat du jour, this particular combination is perhaps the most popular, and a true celebration of all that is best in France. It includes lightly smoked bacon cooked to a crisp, pure-white goat cheese from the Loire Valley, and greens grown in gardens and fields from the north to the south.
Curly Endive (Frisée)
The traditional green used here is curly endive, which tickles the palate as you eat it, and withstands the heat of the dressing, melting just slightly as you pour it over, yet maintaining its wonderful texture and flavor. If you don’t have curly endive you can use escarole or even Belgian endive – any lettuce or green with muscle and flavor will do. As for the goat cheese, use one that is creamy in the center and not too soft, so that it melts yet keeps a certain texture, and when it comes to bacon, use the finest locally smoked version you can find.
Last Minute Preparation
You can prepare the lettuce and the toasts ahead of time, but cook the bacon and melt the goat cheese at the last minute, so the vinaigrette and the goat cheese are warm. And while a red wine is absolutely an acceptable complement to this salad, I urge you to try a Sauvignon Blanc, which to my palate is even better!
CURLY ENDIVE SALAD WITH HOT BACON AND GOAT CHEESE
- For the Greens:
- 11 ounces;330g curly endive (about 12 cups, loosely packed), rinsed, patted dry, and torn into small pieces
- 1 large shallot peeled and cut into paper-thin rounds
- 1 clove garlic peeled, cut into tiny dice
- For the toasts:
- 12 small slices baguette or other fresh crusty bread
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 3 small (each 3-1/2 ounces;105g), goat cheeses such as Crottin de Chavignol, each cut into two horizontal rounds (or six 1-inch (2.5cm rounds)
- To Serve:
- 8 ounces;250g slab bacon, rind removed cut into 1 x ¼ x ¼-inch (2-1/2 x ½ x 1/2 (pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil if needed
- 3 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt optional
- Preheat the broiler.
- Place the curly endive, shallot, and garlic in a large heatproof salad bowl, and toss to mix.
- Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them on one side about 3-inches (7.5cm) from the heat element, for about 2 minutes. Remove from the broiler and rub on both sides with the whole garlic clove. Place one round of cheese on the untoasted side of the six toasted bread slices and place them, along with the remaining pieces of bread (un-toasted side up) under the broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbling, and the bread is toasted, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Place the bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, just until it is golden, about 5 minutes. Depending upon how much fat is rendered from the bacon, add up to 3 tablespoons oil because you want 4 tablespoons (60ml) total fat. Add the vinegar, standing back as it gives off steam. Stir, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then pour over the salad. Toss thoroughly, seasoning generously with pepper and salt if necessary, and toss again.
- Divide the salad among six warmed salad plates. Place a cheese-topped-toast atop each salad, and one piece of plain toast on the side of the plate. Serve immediately.