Sometimes I get sick of salad. Somehow those dinners at Nana’s every Sunday as a kid have engrained in me the notion that with every meal there must be salad. I think all this pressure to eat salad means sometimes I just can’t do it.
But one salad my mom used to make seems to transcend my salad sickness. I don’t make it very often, but I should. It is very simple, but the dressing is a bit of work. Introducing Curly Endive with Bacon Dressing. (Sorry vegetarians, this is one of those mostly-veggie dishes, but with a tiny bit of meat playing a central role.)
Curly endive is actually chicory.
There are imitations of this salad made with shallots or garlic or goat cheese, or all three, but I think they are missing the point. If you make the dressing with the egg and cream, you dont need all that distracting salty goat cheese and shallot. Endive is a bitter green, and the dressing has sugar in it to perfectly tame the bitter. Adding more flavors and saltyness will only hide the genius here. Also, the dressing is hot—as in cooked on the stove top, not spicy. The heat seems to very slightly wilt endive greens, leaving them crunchy but not too fibrous.
CURLY ENDIVE WITH BACON DRESSING
Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne
(Makes 4 to 6 servings, but you will want seconds)
1 head curly endive (I sometimes use less, as these can be very large heads)
1 scallion, finely chopped, green part included
3 slices of bacon
½ cup cream
2 egg yolks, well beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. sugar
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
Remove the core from the endive, and any yellow or dead leaves. Chop or tear the leaves into bite size pieces. Wash them in a bowl of cold water, and then spin them dry. They need to be very dry so the dressing coats them nicely. Put them in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle the scallion on top.
Chop the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crisp but not burned. Separate the bacon from the grease using a slotted spoon or spatula. Add the bacon to the endive. Turn off the heat on the bacon grease.
This is where it gets tricky: my advice is to pretend you are on a cooking show and measure your ingredients into little bowls that you can quickly add.
Beat the egg yolks and stir in the cream in a cup. Turn the heat on the bacon grease to low or “min.” Measure your vinegar and sugar into another cup. Using a whisk, add the cream and egg yolks to the warm bacon grease. If it sizzles, just whisk and quickly pour all the cream into it—this will cool it. Do not turn the heat off, but if you have to lift your skillet up off the flame for a moment. Keep whisking until it cools enough that the egg won’t separate. Add the vinegar and sugar. Keep stirring so it will thicken and not burn. Add salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook until it thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Taste and make sure it has a sweet after taste—not a creamy or a vinegary note on the end.
Once it is done, pour it warm over the endive. Toss thoroughly. Eat it right away.