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Dinner Tonight: French Bistro Salad with Bacon, Croutons, and Garlic

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.

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