Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hearty Autumn Salad with Bacon, Egg, Cornbread Croutons, and Artichokes

I'm back! It's been a long while, and the weather has changed drastically since I've been gone. But I have good reason - two good reasons, actually - for being gone so long. First, my hubby and I took a two week whirlwind trip to Europe, staying in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Zurich. There was much good food, much good beer, a whole lotta walking, wonderful weather despite it being October, and in general a good time was had by all. I ate lots of delicious new foods (Dutch pea soup! Deer sausage! Stoemp! Waterzooi!), and will be posting the recipes here as I make them and can get them close to what I remember having. But besides being gone, there was a lot of planning. It was my first time to Europe, and I planned it myself. Every little bit. Lodging, transportation, train tickets, local metro passes, museum tickets, everything. It was intimidating, and time consuming, and occasionally stressful! But it all turned out well.

Secondly, I've been devoting time to one of my other passions - namely all things design. I'm a bit of an obsessive when it comes to well-designed cookware and serveware (and decor, and... ok, modern and well designed ANYTHING really), and I've been delving in headfirst scouring through thrift stores and other sources, trying to find the good stuff. The good news: I've been finding good stuff! Though it takes time. The flipside is I've been finding TOO MUCH good stuff, and I can't just let it sit there, so I take it home, and well, I've opened an Etsy shop with all my goodies. If you like unique and modern home stuff, check out my shop at

And now back to our regular programming - ah yes, a fall salad. Not so much fall as in pumpkin, pears, and turkey, but a more filling salad. My husband is a mostly typical male - he doesn't care for soups or salads so much. He loves anything with bread and pasta, cheese and beer. In fact, if it weren't so bad for him, he could probably live off those four items alone and be pretty happy. But I am not one of those, and I like salads and soups and things that have lots of greenery in them. So when I make a salad, I always try to be sure it's hearty enough for him. This salad fits the bill - a base of butter/bibb lettuce, which is my absolute favorite alongside arugula - supports a cast of buttery cornbread croutons, bits of chewy, crispy bacon, slices of hard boiled egg, and the real star in this salad - sauteed fresh artichoke hearts. Sure, they are a little bit of a pain to work with, but fresh artichoke hearts are worlds different than what you can get in a can, jar, or in the freezer aisle. This takes a bit of timing, and time - cook the eggs while cooking the bacon while chopping the artichokes, but it's worth the extra effort, I think.

Hearty Autumn Salad

For the dressing:
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB fresh minced shallots
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch each of salt and pepper
3-4 TB extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
4-5 cups butter lettuce, washed, drained, and torn into bite-sized pieces
3 slices thick slab bacon, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup stale cornbread, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 medium artichokes
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
olive oil
salt and pepper

First, make the dressing: in a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, shallots, mustard, and seasoning. In a thin, slow stream, whisk the olive oil in slowly until emulsified. Alternatively, blitz everything in a hand blender. Set aside.

Next, start the eggs. I use the Julia Child method. Put eggs in a small pot filled with cold water. Over high heat, bring water to a boil. As soon as it reaches boiling, remove from heat, put on a lid, and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes is up, put eggs into an ice bath until cool.

While the eggs are cooking, get the bacon started. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, until bacon is cooked and crispy-chewy. Remove bacon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Remove all but 1 TB bacon grease and dispose of rest of grease properly (no pouring down your sink, please).

In the bacon-grease pan, toast the cornbread croutons over low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure all sides are crispy and nothing is burning (as you can see, I got a few burned spots, but nobody's perfect). Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Remove from heat when done.

While bacon and croutons are cooking, prepare your artichokes. Get a large bowl of cold water ready, and add to it 1 TB of vinegar (white or apple cider) or 1 TB lemon juice. Trim the stem, leaving about 1/2". Remove the tough outer leaves from your artichoke with your fingers (just snap them off), until you get to the very light, thin, pointy leaves on the inside. Cut the top 2/3 off the leaves. Run a paring knife along outside of your artichoke and trim it of any of the leaf stubs and dark skin, until you see the lighter, speckled part underneath - this is the heart. Slice your artichoke in half lengthwise, from stem to leaves. With a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well), scoop out the feathery choke, making sure to get all bits. Rinse the artichoke out if need be. Slice the halves lengthwise into thin, 1/8" slices, and drop them in the acidulated water to prevent browning. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Drain and pat dry artichokes, and pan fry them with a TB of olive oil and a pinch of salt in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, until the edges begin to caramelize. When done, drain on a paper towel lined plate.

To assemble, lay a base of lettuce leaves on a plate. Top with bacon, croutons, hard boiled egg slices, goat cheese, and artichokes, and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

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