Ok, friends, so last we spoke about Around My French Table, I was telling you how long and (kinda but not really) arduous was the process to make Dorie Greenspan’s onion soup. Fear not! If you spend some time getting all cozy with this (thus far amazing and versatile, IMHO) cookbook, you’ll learn that there are plenty of recipes that, (1) you can whip up on a, say, Monday night, (b) with ingredients you prolly already have in your kitchen, and (c) turn out delicious and make you very happy that you made the wise choice to whip them up on a weeknight.
Hey, why should Mondays always get shit on? Around the homestead, you’ll often find Double S and I sipping wine and listening to music whilst we cook and eat, gleefully not caring that the next day is only Tuesday. But hey, I work for the man too, and I’m not gonna lie. I don’t like Mondays.
Right, Bob Geldoff, his power mullet, and the rest of the Boomtown Rats?
Right Zooey Deschan…I mean Karen Carpenter! COUGH*Zooeycoppedherstyle!*COUGH
You know what I’m talking about, Bangles!
Oh, and thanks for the early heads up to this then 11 year old that I liked girls! Va va va voom, 1986 era Susanna Hoffs!
Anyway, what was I saying? Ah yes, I have a cure for your case of the Mondays!
On a recent Monday night, yeah just the day after Double S and I got back from our big Yellowstone trip, I grabbed Around My French Table and looked for something fairly quick and easy. And holy shit did I find it…and it was delicious!
Deconstructed B.L.T. and Eggs, page 133. Everyday vinaigrette, page 484. Mayonnaise, page 490-491.
I think deconstructing foods is fun. There was a Top Chef challenge once were the contestants had to deconstruct classic dishes. I saw it, learned about deconstruction, and was very intrigued. Dorie’s recipe here is basically that challenge, but lucky you…Dorie already deconstructed the classic B.L.T., gave you the recipe, and pushed you out to Judge’s Table and Tom Colicchio ain’t even mad that you didn’t come up with it yourself!
So, deconstruction. What’s up with that? Here’s how Tom Colicchio describes it in his often hilarious and braggy Top Chef blog:
Deconstructed food has been going on for a while now. It’s an approach to a plating style, as well as a way of personalizing a dish and making it one’s own. For example, I used to do a dish based on minestrone soup: the veggies became the garnish for a roasted rack of lamb, the soup itself became a sauce, and in lieu of the minestrone noodles, I made a goat-cheese ravioli. Deconstruction is a great way for a chef to put his or her own stamp on a classic.
He goes on to say, in describing a contestant’s attempt to deconstruct paella, that being able to deconstruct a dish hinges both on familiarity with the dish and on creativity:
It was clear that he didn’t really know how to make paella properly to begin with, which is important to know in order to then deconstruct the dish. He showed a stunning failure of imagination in his approach to the challenge – off the top of my head, I can think of countless ways to deconstruct paella.
I liked how the classic main elements of a BLT are deconstructed here. Obviously, the classic B.L.T. is reinterpreted a salad. A big salad. Hey, I’m just like Elaine Benes in that I love a big salad!
The bacon is chopped and mixed throughout, and you get tastes of its salty awesomeness in almost every bite.
The role of the lettuce is played by the far superior arugula, and it’s spicy flavor is brought more to the forefront.
The tomato element of the classic B.L.T. sandwich is reinterpreted here in two ways: via fresh cherry tomatoes and via the ultra tomatoey presence of sun-dried tomatoes. A note about seasonality is called for here in regard to the cherry tomatoes. Yes, I used a recipe calling for tomatoes in January, which I usually never do. But, I really wanted to try this recipe, and it’s not like those little plastic boxes of cherry tomatoes from Mexico in the grocery store are going anywhere. If you simply must have a tomato in January, they are your way to go. Meg and I had a hard time with the seasonality issue in picking the cookbooks. Almost any cookbook would be better cooked through in the summer, when you have tomatoes and basil and cukes and corn and melons and just all around bounty and freshness at your fingertips. So we knew we had to have some cookbooks for these winter months. Around My French Table has a few recipes that I’ve already bookmarked for use in the spring and summer. But for this one, I couldn’t wait. Sorry Michael Pollan!
The bread element of the sandwich becomes croutons. Bread in a sandwich is very important to me. A couple shitty pieces of bread or a bad roll can ruin a sandwich or a burg for me. Oh, and you will hear about it ad nauseam! Ask Double S! Here, my advice is use good bread to make your croutons.
Finally, my BLT has to have mayo, and here Dorie uses mayo as a topping to the new presence of eggs. The mayo topping the eggs mixes with the good bread of the croutons, then you get a bite of crispy bacon and extra tomato-y goodness, as you use tomatoes in two ways. And voila, the BLT sandwich becomes something slightly different and elevated from what you’ve known it as over the years. Success!
To her deconstructed B.L.T. salad, Dorie adds eggs, which are a delicious addition, reminding you of the classic bacon and eggs in your breakfast, and how good eggs are outside of their breakfast domain. And I love hard-boiled eggs. I know a lot of people don’t like them. And I know it’s kinda gauche these days to not like a runny egg topping everything you eat, but I’ll take a hard-boiled egg any day of the week. I love adding acidic and other flavorful additions to their yolks. Here, in the salad, you add little dollops of mayo to top each of the egg halves. Genius!
Plus, I made homemade mayo for the first time by following Dorie’s recipe for it. Recommended! Her mayo recipe is cool because it encourages you to play around with the oil, in terms of what kind and how much. At her suggestion, I used peanut, olive, and canola oils. Delicious.
Although, that’s another thing. I love mayo. I always have a smirk on my face as I hear people proclaiming their hatred of mayo. Do not hate on mayo when I’m around, yo! It’s just oil and eggs and salt! What’s to hate about that? It’s a gullet moistener! Sometimes that’s needed! Her recipe for mayo turns out really good. Good old-fashioned Hellman’s works for me too, when I don’t wanna do all the whisking hers calls for. Others swear by Kewpie Mayo, Japanese mayo which is supposed to be creamier and tangier. It’s made with rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, and is mixed with sriracha to make the spicy sauce at a lot of sushi spots.
This recipe was a success, and very easy to make. I liked it right off the bat because Dorie states her preference for using arugula instead of lettuce. Many a delicious B.L.T. and salad has been ruined by a shitty piece of iceberg lettuce or nasty faux fancy radicchio. Viva l’arugula!
I love the stuff. Double S and I have vowed to get a good plot of it growing in our garden this spring, because we love it in salads, in pastas for bite, and especially on pizza. Fresh arugula on pizza is pretty much perfect.
And about our garden. Garden planning, man. It was just Christmas and then it immediately it seems that if you don’t have your garden planned out by January and your seeds purchased and a smug attitude about it all, then you’re screwed. Double S and I have tipsily started planning out our 2012 garden in broad strokes, but we need to get on it more seriously. And yeah, we tipsily talk about gardening! Welcome to your late 30s! We’ve had our backyard garden now for three seasons. This is usually what it looks like in late May, when we’ve brought the lettuce starts up from their prior home, in the basement under grow lights.
I’m always really proud of myself when I take this picture. The above is from May 28, 2011. Then I’m always kicking myself when I don’t succession plant and have only bitter lettuce left in July, and no arugula left. Not this year, chums. More about gardens later.
Speaking of gardening, Dorie here calls for oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I used the ones we grew in our garden last summer, then preserved by roasting with a slight drizzle of olive oil and some kosher salt at the end of the season. Roasted, but not oil packed. Because they aren’t as strong as the ones suggested by Dorie, I’d use more than what the recipe calls for when I make this again. They are delicious and were great in the salad, but we were left wanting more. See, I used what I preserved from my own garden!
Otherwise, if you keep a fairly well stocked kitchen, you’ll have most of these ingredients on hand. If not, big whoop, hit the grocery store you lazy ass!
I used bacon we had from Blue Valley Meats. Do you buy local meat in your area? Blue Valley is some of the best here in WA. I used an old loaf of bread we had in the fridge for the croutons. We often will buy day old, thus cheaper, loaves of quality bakery bread specifically to use for croutons and breadcrumbs over the course of a few weeks. Croutons are a great way to make a salad a meal, says I, sounding like some happy homemaker in a commercial. Seriously, yo. Croutons are the bomb! Ok, now I’ve gone too far in the other direction.
Here, Dorie directs you to cook the croutons in a little bit of the leftover bacon grease. Awesome! My family makes German food on Thanksgiving, and one of the the key ingredient in the main dish, kartoffel klösse (wow, I never knew how that was spelled, thanks Internet!), which are basically potato dumplings, is the delicious crouton inside each one that was cooked in bacon grease.
However, maybe it’s cuz I’m a tree hugging hippie or that there was too many croutons in this big salad, but I got a bit overwhelmed by the greasy baconess of these croutons and had a bit of a stomach ache afterwards because of them. Not French! I think next time I make this salad, I will use my normal go to way of making croutons: mix equal parts olive oil and butter, and add fresh minced garlic, salt, and paprika. Toss the bread in the mixture and bake for about 10 minutes. Or perhaps better yet I’ll use half bacon grease and half some other kind of fat, so the taste of the croutons still calls to mind the bacon.
Finally, you top this big salad with Dorie’s own Everyday Vinaigrette. I’ve made this a few times now and I love it. I’m always tossing together homemade dressings, and this simple one has entered the rotation. I’d usually use balsamic in a vinaigrette like this, but here I like the use of red wine vinegar, and I toss in some garlic. Good stuff!
Warning: When you make this beautiful salad, you’ll be hesitant to toss it all together and ruin your work of art. Dorie talks about bringing the assembled salad to the table to toss (and to wow your guests!). I agree! Then take pictures! Then get your ass to the table to eat; this one’s delicious.
All in all, this one is a keeper! Especially in the summer when we’ll have arugula and tomatoes in the garden. And hey, I have been looking for an excuse to make my own bacon again!
And there you have it, a deconstructed B.L.T. salad. On a Monday night! Dinner is served!
By the way, there’s still time to participate in this month;s challenge! This cookbook is so good. Here are the deets:
As Meg and I have said, we will both be blogging about our exploits with this book throughout the month. Make one recipe or make a whole dinner party for your friends, but whatever you do, tell us about it! By Friday January 25th, send us a link to your post: email@example.com. And by January 30th, check back in for a comprehensive round-up, featuring your post and the posts of all your virtual friends. Fun!