Bistro-Style Salad with Poached Egg and Parmesan
Salads seem like a challenge during the winter, without the benefit of garden-fresh greens, tomatoes, and vegetables. But with just a little creativity you can have beautiful salads apropos of the season. The one I share here combines bitter winter greens like frisée, endive, or radicchio (or better yet, a combination of all of them) with a topping of sautéed whole scallions and slices of smoky Italian prosciutto.
Perfectly poached eggs are placed on top with thin shavings of nutty Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts, and thin slices of crusty bread with melted Parmesan. (When your guests cut into the egg, the creamy yellow yolk luxuriously spills out onto the contrasting bed of greens.) It’s a great combination of textures, colors, and flavors—served with a dry, spicy Riesling, it’s a meal that will wake up even the most dulled winter palates.
This is the kind of sophisticated salad that can be served as a main dish or a first course, and it combines so many great textures, flavors, and colors. Best of all, it’s quick: the eggs are poached at the last minute, and the salad can be put together in under 5 minutes. Everything else can be prepared ahead of time.
THE VINAIGRETTE: In a small bowl, mix the mustard with salt and pepper to taste. Add the vinegar and stir. Slowly add the oil, whisking to create a smooth, thickened vinaigrette.
THE CHEESE TOASTS: Preheat the broiler. Arrange the bread slices on a cookie sheet or tray. Brush the oil on the tops of the slices. Broil for 1 minute, or until the bread just begins to turn golden brown. Remove and turn the bread slices over. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the bread slices. Broil 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with black pepper; the toasts can be covered and left at room temperature for several hours.
THE SALAD: To toast the nuts, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring once or twice, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they are fragrant and just beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop; set aside.
Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook for about 5 minutes, tossing them once or twice, until tender and just beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and add the prosciutto strips to the skillet. They shouldn’t actually cook but simply warm up with the residual heat of the skillet.
On a large serving platter, arrange the greens; top with the scallions in a crisscross pattern, and scatter the prosciutto around the salad. Spoon half the vinaigrette on top of the greens and scallions.
To poach the eggs, fill a large skillet with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully crack each egg into a bowl, keeping the yolk intact. Gently add the eggs to the skillet with the boiling water, one at a time. Reduce the heat to medium-high so the water is at a slow simmer, and cook for 3 minutes for an egg with a runny yolk, longer for a firmer yolk. Carefully remove eggs with a slotted spoon and arrange in the center of the salad, on top of the scallions; scatter the walnuts and cheese shavings on top of the salad. Season the egg with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Written by Kathy Gunst
Photography by Stacey Cramp