One of the things I love most about a Saturday with nothing to do is making lunch my big meal of the day. It feels especially fitting this time of year, when it stays light until late in the evening, because I can eat a big meal around three o’clock and then spend the rest of my day outside; I’ll go for a long walk/run on the boardwalk overlooking the city, and then come back and nibble on something light for dinner. So today, as I find myself at home for the first time in a long time (with my picky eater off doing his own thing), I decided to pour my creative juices into a special lunch for one.
My muse for this salad was the dozen free range eggs my best friend gave me last weekend when I went down to visit her for our 20 year high school reunion. The eggs are from her sister-in-law’s cattle farm, where the chickens have free reign to wander around with the cows and the goats. The result is everything you would expect from farm-to-table eggs — the yolks are neon orange and the whites fluff up like little clouds when they hit a hot pan. Every time I use one I’m sad to see it go. I keep counting to see how many I have left, and in honor of giving each egg its own special sendoff, I’m trying to think of recipes where the egg is the star of the meal.
Cue this warm goat cheese salad with a poached egg on top. It’s a riff on all the croques madames I used to eat when I lived in Tours, France. The Loire region is known for its goat cheese, and they would make this classic french sandwich with goat cheese on top. I was its biggest fan.
This recipe is simple in spirit and simple to make. I love how the bitterness of the frisée pairs with the creamy, tangy goat cheese. You’ll need an aged goat cheese with a firm texture so that it stands up in the fry pan. I dredged each slice of goat cheese in egg whites to act as my glue for the panko breadcrumbs, and then I fried the slices in ghee because it has a higher smoking point than butter and it add a lovely nutty flavor (it’s also a healthier fat). I made a simple lemon dijon vinaigrette with chopped shallots, but I have to be honest and tell you that I didn’t measure any of the ingredients (because it’s Saturday and it’s my day off and I was hungry, dammit), so I tried my best to estimate how much I used. Fair warning: you should know that my estimation skills received an “N” for “Needs Improvement” in 4th grade math. It’ll be a good excuse for you to cultivate your own personal taste!
Warm Chèvre Frisée Salad with Poached Egg
firm, aged goat cheese
egg(s), for poaching
1 egg white, for breading
ghee, for frying (or substitute with one part olive oil, one part butter)
coarse sea salt (or whatever you have in your kitchen) + pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped shallots
Slice the goat cheese into 1/4 inch rounds. Dredge the slices in egg whites and then dip them into the breadcrumbs, making sure as much of the cheese is covered as possible. Pan fry the cheese in ghee, heated on medium high. Watch carefully — if the ghee starts to smoke, turn down the heat. Fry for approximately two minutes per side, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
To poach the egg, bring a pot of water to a gentle boil. I usually add a glug of distilled white vinegar, which helps keep the eggs together. Stir the water so that when the egg drops in, the centripetal force pulls the egg in on itself. When you crack the egg, be sure to hold it very close to the water so that as it cracks open, the egg slides in without a lot of drama; if you drop the egg into the water from further away, it will break apart as soon as it goes in. You want it to slowly slide into the hot bath, not belly flop off the diving board. Cook the egg for approximately 3 minutes, although I like to lift it out with a slotted spoon and wiggle it a little bit to make sure that the whites are firm (but the yolk is still slightly runny). Let it dry on a paper towel before adding it to your salad. Toss the frisée in your vinaigrette and then add the fried goat cheese and the poached egg. Top with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.