Here's a good rule to live by: never turn down a salad with bacon. As a follower of that rule, I had to try this recipe in Patricia Wells' very classic cookbook Bistro Cooking, which in itself is a book you shouldn't turn down. The recipe was adapted from a tiny bistro in Lyon.
The genius is in the croutons: they're homemade from cubed rustic bread (a perfect use if it's stale, but it will work fine with fresh), crisped in the rendered bacon fat until golden and just barely chewy. They absorb a ton of flavor and it gives the whole salad that porky, bacon-y goodness all the way through.
The dressing is also pretty marvelous—mustardy from a good helping of Dijon, along with red wine vinegar and a neutral oil, it's almost as thick as mayonnaise and a perfect complement to the richness of the bacon. And the final touch, rather unexpected, is a sprinkle of finely minced raw garlic, for just a touch of pungency. This is the kind of simple bistro food I could eat forever: simple, rustic, unpretentious, and delicious.
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup neutral oil, such as peanut or canola
- 6 cups mixed salad greens
- 4 ounces bacon, preferably thick cut, cut into matchsticks
- 2 large slices rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon and red wine vinegar. Add the oil in a slow stream while whisking vigorously to create an creamy emulsion of the dressing ingredients. Once all the oil is added, season to taste with salt.
Add the bacon to a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook the bacon until the fat begins to render, 2-3 minutes, then add the cubed bread. Cook, stirring ocassionally, until the bacon is crisp and the bread is golden, 10-12 minutes.
Place the greens in a large salad bowl. Top with the bacon/crouton mixture and dressing, then toss to coat the leaves thoroughly. Season, if needed, with salt. Add the minced garlic then divide amongst plates. Serve while the croutons are still warm.