Okay, dudes. You have committed to fixing your best girl breakfast. Problem is you want bacon and eggs and she wants a salad. You're cooking for her so salad it is. Still, a brother gotta eat so we're gonna get you your bacon and eggs. We're combining those two things into the breakfast version of a peanut butter cup - the best of both worlds. We're gonna have a vibrant, fresh salad with bacon and egg. We're classing it up by using pancetta. And we're topping it with a Maple Syrup (that's for you), Bacon Fat (also for you) Mild Curry (for her) Vinaigrette (it's French, so totally for her).
This is a salad for two. If you're making it for the whole family, just double it or triple it. Takes 8-10 minutes of prep time and 8-10 minutes of cooking time.
For the vinaigrette
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp coarse mustard
1 tbsp mild curry powder
salt and pepper
2 tbsp pancetta fat, rendered while cooking
¼ cup olive oil
For the salad
2 small heads Butter Lettuce, torn
2 medium handfuls of Arugula
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 radishes, small dice
8 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters (different colors if you can find them)
5 oz pancetta, chopped
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 eggs, fried
Salt And Ground Black Pepper to taste
One 8-10 inch non-stick skillet
1 cutting board
1 Big Ass Knife
1 slotted spoon or spatula
1 6 inch skillet
1 1/4cup measuring cup
1 plastic container with a lid
Admittedly, the vinaigrette looks weird. 2 different vinegars? Sherry vinegar? Ground mustard instead of Dijon? Maple syrup instead of sugar or honey? Motherf&$@ing Curry Powder?
I've played with this dressing for awhile. I've tried it with red wine vinegar. Overwhelming. I've tried it with sherry vinegar. It just disappears. I saw another recipe for a vinaigrette, for something totally different where they combined the two. I don't know why that never occurred to me. Also, this is pretty heavy on the vinegar. It needs to be to get up above the insistent flavors of the pancetta and egg. By combining the two you get the subtlety of the sherry vinegar and the brute force of the red wine vinegar without it killing the whole plate.
I started using maple syrup as a sweetener in vinaigrette for breakfast salads a couple years ago. I wanted a healthy salad to start the day but I wanted it to feel, taste and smell like breakfast when I was a kid. Maple syrup does that. Here's a little culinary secret. Maple and curry get along really well. Like, crazy well. Like, way over the top public display of affection well. You can't tell where the maple ends and the curry begins. I've tried it with a hot curry and it sucks. The maple and the curry go from a young couple in love, looking at a future together and unable to keep their hands off each other to an angry, violent, they're either banging or throwing plates at each other long married couple that should have split up a long time ago. No one needs that kind of stress in their salad. Use a sweet, mild curry.
Start with the vinaigrette. You'll make it about 2/3rds of the way and hit pause until you have the fat from the pancetta. Use the shake it like a polariod picture method. Get a container with a lid. Add the vinegars, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper and curry powder. Give it a good stir until the mustard is broken up. Set aside.
Tear the bottom of the core off the butter lettuce. Drop the leaves in a salad spinner, tearing while you go. Wash. Get them thoroughly spun and dried. Divide across two plates. Grab a medium sized handful of arugula and arrange on one of the plates. Repeat with the other plate. Dice the radishes and thinly-slice the onion and arrange on the plates. Do the same with the tomatoes. Lightly salt and pepper.
This is your foundation. All by itself this is a pretty simple but really good salad. Butter lettuce is very mellow, silky and sweet. Arugula has a peppery tinge to it. We want that difference. So, if you can't find Butter Lettuce, get a Red Leaf or a Green Leaf. If you can't find arugula, grab escarole or endive. The point is to counterpunch the flavors against each other.
Now let's tart it up a little.
Grab the pancetta. Let's talk about pancetta. You're thinking, "why not bacon?" Valid question. Both are products of the pork belly and both are cured. The difference is that bacon is heavily brined and smoked while pancetta is cured with salt and pepper and rolled tight. Bacon works in this recipe and if you can't find pancetta (or you're relentlessly jingoistic and bacon feels more American to you) use the same amount of bacon and you're good. You'll just have to chop the hell out of it. I like pancetta here because I find the taste more purely pork and less dominating than the smokiness of bacon. I want that porky flavor to be an accent, not the whole show.
Cook the pancetta until crisped to your liking. But we want all the fat out of it we can get so start it in a cold skillet (non-stick is easier but not requred) on medium heat. I like to let it go about 5 minutes. Remove to paper towel lined plate. Remove the skillet from heat and pour off the bacon fat into a bowl. Keep the skillet handy, you're going to use if for the eggs.
Put a dry skillet over medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds. If you can't find pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), which are usually available raw in the bulk section, use pecans or slivered almonds. Pine nuts also work but they cost roughly as much as California real estate. Walnuts just don't seem to work with this dish. Pumpkin seeds are relatively easy to find and seem to elicit a response that's disproportionately positive. Theyr'e surprising and that makes us think you're Cheffin' your ass off. Toast them for 2-3 minutes to actiivate the oils and get then just a little crispier. Divide them evenly across the plates.
Finish the vinaigrette. Pour in the pancetta fat, and the olive oil. Put the lid on tight and shake it. You want it to emulsify without the pain in the ass of whisking for a long time. So, I mean, shake it. Dance. Have fun. When I was making this dressing using this method, I'd give it to Jill. She'd put on a show. It was either comical or sexy or both. This makes breakfast a fantastic start to the day. Most important meal and all that. Depending on the sexy level of the dance we might have to...um...take a break before cooking the eggs. Cooking should be fun. And communal. Etc.
In the same skillet you used for the pancetta, over medium low heat, add two eggs. There's probably enough residual pancetta fat that you don't need to add anything else, but if you're worried about them sticking (to your non-stick pan) throw in a little butter or a drizzle of olive oil. Either works. Give them a dash of salt, pepper and curry powder. After about a minute, flip them. After 30 seconds flip them back on to their original side. Give it another 15 seconds or so. Remove putting one on top of each salad plate. Sprinkle half the lardons on each plate and garnish with parmesan. Drizzle 3-4 spoonfuls of dressing on to each salad and serve.
This just plain works. You're getting plenty of fresh salad. It's vibrant, it's light, it wakes you up. You're also getting the heavier, more umami feel of the pancetta and the maple and the curry. It gives it a ground wire and an earthiness. You cut into that egg and it runs and adds a its yoke-y goodness to the symphony. You feel like you had something substantial but you don't feel weighted down by it. Pretty good way to get moving in the morning. This or a variation of it has become my go-t0 for a day where I'm going hiking. Enough calories to fuel you without the heavy, "oh God, what have I done" after effect of a typical bacon and egg breakfast.