Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Perfect brunch - dandelion greens salad with bacon, spring garlic, and soft-boiled egg

One of my favorite restaurants is al di la in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  I love the perfectly shabby, cozy dining room with its big window, pressed tin ceiling and an old chandelier.  I would eat their calf liver weekly, if allowed, and I have friends obsessed with their roast chicken.  I've never met anybody who didn't like the place.  Perhaps if I did, I would not be friends with them.  Last time there, my dear friend Assel and I shared a warm dandelion greens salad, which immediately sprang to mind when I spotted the greens at my Sunday market.  I also spotted spring garlic, odds and ends pieces of local bacon (great deal if your farmer sells it, because it is usually cheaper than sliced bacon), and eggs.  Suddenly, I was looking at an excellent Sunday brunch - bitter dandelions wilted with sharp bacony dressing, mellow bites of garlic and rich egg yolk caught in the leaves, a hunk of  Orwasher's excellent ale bread to sop it all up.  I used about 1/3 a large bunch of greens with 1/4 pound of bacon and 1 egg (well, I added a couple quail eggs given to me at the market as well).  This was a very generous lunch for one, but would also serve two, if you are people with normal appetites or have something else to eat.  I would boil another egg, though; you don't want to fight over egg yolk first thing on a lovely Sunday afternoon.   Follow with a coffee and some local strawberries, as if you needed another reminder that summer is awesome.

Warm dandelion greens salad with bacon, spring garlic, and egg

1/3 bunch dandelion greens, torn into 2 -3 inch pieces, washed and dried well
Parsley leaves, picked off a few sprigs (optional, but tasty)
1/4 pound of applewood smoked bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 sprig of spring garlic, sliced
1 - 2 fresh eggs, depending if you are sharing or being selfish
1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil, adjusted to your bacon's fattiness
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 -3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.  I would suggest adding salt to the salad after you dress it, if necessary, because bacon can be salty.

For a perfect soft-boiled egg, put an egg in a small pot with room temperature water and bring to the boil.  Boil for exactly 4 minutes, transfer to a bowl with room temperature water to let cool.  Meanwhile, warm a small skillet with a tablespoon of oil over low-medium heat and cook the bacon to render the fat and let it crisp.  With a spoon (ideally, a slotted one), transfer the bacon to a medium mixing bowl leaving the fat behind.  To this awesome bacon fat add the spring garlic and saute gently until the garlic is softened and it smells like garlicky cured pork in your kitchen.  Turn off the heat and check the amount of fat in the pan.  If it looks dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil and whisk in the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and freshly ground pepper.  Put the greens and parsley on top of the bacon, dump the warm dressing and toss thoroughly. Let the greens sit, wilt, and relax, while you peel the egg, carefully.  Taste the salad and add salt and a bit more vinegar, if needed.  Remember, the egg will bring more fat to the party, so you want the salad on the acidic side to start with.  Put the salad in a wide, shallow serving bowl and top with the egg that you gently split to expose the runny yolk.  Try not to feel like a semi-pro.

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