Chrysanthemum salad with poached egg and warm bacon vinaigrette

In the spirit of gilding the (voodoo)lily, I thought I’d take the classic Salade Lyonnaise and take it in a different direction. Instead of the traditional frisée, I used crysanthemum leaves, which are slightly less bitter and impart a green, herbal note to balance the rich egg and dressing. They’re sold in Asian markets as tong hao.

Yes, Antonia made a similar salad on this week’s Top Chef, but I think mine is better. And you’ll just hafta believe me, I really had been thinking of doing this before I saw the show, since I already had the giant bag of chrysanthemum leaves (see last week’s Fubonn spree, wherein I also picked up those pea shoots).

Besides, it’s not like Antonia invented Salade Lyonnaise. And she sure as hell didn’t serve hers on a shady patio in perfect 80 degree weather. Cue birds chirping and the sounds of children’s laughter.

Chrysanthemum salad with poached egg and warm bacon vinaigrette
Serves 2 for brunch or a light supper. Don’t use an aluminum pan for this or else the vinegar you’ll add will react with the pan and make everything taste tinny and “off”.

~6 cups chrysanthemum leaves (this was a full typical produce-sized bag, after cleaning)
2 eggs
4 slices of bacon, minced
2 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 c white wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1/2 tsp minced thyme

Stem and scrupulously wash the greens, pinch off the large stems and shake the leaves out to dry (since I don’t have a salad spinner, I invented a technique where I soak them in a sink of cold water, shaking them a bit to knock out the dirt, then strain and rinse again, then place a large bowl over the strainer and shake off the water).

Poach the eggs – simmer in hot water with a splash of vinegar until the whites set up. You don’t want the water boiling or you’ll end up with wispy whites like egg drop soup. I crack the eggs into a small bowl and then gently dip the bowl into the water and slide them out. Note that the photos clearly show that I overcooked mine ever-so-slightly. You want runny yolks. Mine were more like custard. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Render the bacon bits for a minute over medium-low heat, then add the shallot and lemon zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon and shallot are browned and crispy. Remove from heat, add the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, mustard and thyme and whisk until emulsified. Salt and pepper (and more lemon or vinegar) to taste. Yes, you have just made salad dressing with bacon fat. You can thin this with a little olive oil if you want to make it healthier, but if you’re eating salad with bacon and eggs on it, I’d say you’ve already given up.

Plate the leaves and top with poached egg, then dribble the bacon vinaigrette over the top. Add a crack of black pepper to finish. Serve with a crusty bread (we had poppyseed bialy) and prosecco (or leftover Domaine Labbé).

Wumpy stared at us and pawed pitifully at the screen door the entire time we ate.