Though I'm not as brave as some, apparently it's quite possible to walk outside and forage for dinner in just about anybody's front yard. That's right—dandelions are a perfectly suitable dinner. Since I couldn't find any dandelions near my apartment in Chicago, I headed to Whole Foods, where I found proof that this common weed is actually a well-respected ingredient: They were selling them for $2.50/bunch.
The flavor is good, actually—pleasantly bitter—and the they are surprisingly nutritious. To prepare them I followed a recipe from Earth to Table, a splendid cookbook I've been loving recently. The approach is very similar to the classic French salad frisée aux lardons, which makes sense since frisée is also a bitter, sturdy green that stands up to the warm vinaigrette of shallots, mustard, and bacon fat. The poached egg melts all over everything, including the homemade croutons, and makes this one decadent, delicious salad.
- For the croutons
- 2 cups stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoon minced herbs, such as thyme or rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the salad
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Canola oil, as needed
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
- 4 cups dandelion leaves
- For the eggs
- 4 large eggs
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread with the oil, herbs, and salt, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, start the bacon cooking in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until the fat renders and the bacon is chewy and starting to crisp, 7-10 minutes. Remove to a plate lines with paper towels, then add a little canola oil (if necessary) to make about 1/3 cup of fat, depending on how much fat the bacon rendered. Add the shallots, vinegar, and mustard and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Stir quickly to bring together into a dressing and keep warm.
While the bacon is cooking, bring the water and vinegar for the eggs to a simmer, then crack the eggs into a small dish or ladle. Slip them carefully into the water and simmer until the whites are just set and the yolk is still runny, about 3-4 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the dandelion greens with the bacon, croutons, and dressing. Toss to combine, then plate and top with the poached egg. Serve immediately while the egg and dressing are still warm.