French-Style Caesar Salad with Creamy Dressing and Duck Cracklings

French-Style Caesar Salad:

This salad is a traditional appetizer in the Auvergne region of France. It closely resembles a classic Caesar salad (actually, it is a precursor of the Caesar salad), but features a different type of dressing. To make the salad, take a large head of very fresh romaine lettuce, remove tough outer leaves, slice off the end, and open up to rinse out any dirt and impurities in cold running water. Pat dry and slice salad leaves across at about 1-inch intervals. Using the large-holed side of a grater, grate 1 once good quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Reggiano or Gran Padrino (do not use supermarket-bought powdered Parmesan). Toss the sliced lettuce leaves with the grated cheese, a handful of warmed crumpled duck cracklings (see below), and a generous amount of creamy dressing (see below). To serve, add on top 1/4 cup salad croutons (see below). Enjoy as an delicious appetizer for lunch or supper.

French Creamy Dressing:

Mix together in a small bowl 1 tsp Dijon-type mustard and 3 tbsp raw wine vinegar. Slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a fork until the oil is emulsified. Add 1 tbsp expeller-pressed flax oil. Stir in about 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, basil, thyme, or oregano. As a last touch, blend in with a fork 1/4 cup crème fraîche, and serve immediately with French-Style Caesar Salad.

Duck Cracklings:

In order to render duck fat and make cracklings, cut pieces of duck skin and fat into small chunks and cook them in a heavy-bottomed pan for about 30 – 40 minutes, until the pieces have turned golden and a lot of fat has been rendered. Remove cracklings with a slotted spoon, pat dry with paper towels, and store in a refrigerator. Prior to serving with the salad, cracklings should be gently heated.

Salad croutons:

Take 3 slices whole grain bread (preferably sprouted or sourdough), trim off crusts, and spread on top a mixture of 1 clove mashed garlic, 1 tsp French-style herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme, etc.), 6 tbsp butter, and a pinch of paprika. Bake the bread slices in an oven at 250 degrees for about 1 hour, until they are crisp. Allow to cool, and cut into small cubes. Salad croutons can be stored in a container with a lid without refrigeration until needed.

Lobster Cobb Salad

This Lobster Cobb Salad is a good dish for people trying to stay fit. Lobster is rich in protein and essential vitamins while it’s quite low in fat. And aside from the healthy dose of protein from this excellent seafood, you also get vitamin C and fiber from the assorted greens. Moreover, avocado is not only rich in vitamins but also antioxidants. Now, what do you get from the yummy pancetta and  Ricotta cheese? Well, since pancetta is basically just bacon, you get more protein from that, of course. And Ricotta cheese is the same as other cheeses out there, it is rich in calcium and protein. Seriously, this dish is not only a feast for the eyes, but also an excellent dose of healthy living. But don’t just take my word for it. Go ahead and try this recipe out for yourself.

Serves: 4

VANILLA VINAIGRETTE

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 oz grapeseed oil
To taste, kosher salt
To taste, freshly ground black pepper

 

SALAD

Two 1¼ -lb lobsters
As needed, Court Bouillon
12 oz mixed greens (baby romaine, Bibb lettuce, frisée)
1 zucchini, small, thinly sliced lengthwise to form ribbons
4 slices pancetta
4 Tbsp fresh ricotta
1 tsp Spice de Cosette
2 eggs, hard-boiled, cut in half
1 avocado, quartered and sliced
4 flatbread pieces
2 vanilla beans, split
2 Tbsp lemon zest

 

VANILLA VINAIGRETTE

1. Combine the vanilla bean and seeds, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Cool and reserve.

2. In a bowl, combine the vanilla syrup, vanilla extract, vinegar,and mustard. Whisk until incorporated.

3. Slowly stream in the oil while whisking continuously to form an emulsion.

4. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper; reserve.

 

SALAD

1. Poach the lobster in the Court Bouillon for 10 minutes. Drain.

2. Remove the lobster meat from the shell and divide it into 4 portions.

3. Divide the lettuce into 4 bunches and wrap with zucchini ribbon.

4. Place the pancetta on a Silpat and cover with another Silpat; place a sheet pan on top, and bake at 350°F until crisp, about 15 minutes.

5. Mix the ricotta with the Spice de Cosette. Form quenelles and place on flatbreads.

6. Place the lettuce bundles in the center of 4 large plates. Arrange the lobster around the bundles and top with egg, avocado, and flatbread. Drizzle 1½ oz Vanilla Vinaigrette over each salad. Garnish each with 1/2 vanilla bean and 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest.

 

This dish would require at least an hour to prepare so you better get all the ingredients bought and laid out to avoid turning that into two hours or more. And make sure you follow the recipe. This may just be a salad, but you still have to follow a process. Now, this scrumptious Lobster Cobb Salad would be great with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. If you ask me, I’d go with the Chardonnay. But then, some people prefer the dry, light-flavored body of Sauvignon Blanc for shellfish. To each his own, I guess. However, if you plan to serve this at a dinner party(and you want to impress guests), I think it would be better if you do a “taste test” first. Buy both bottles of wine to better judge which of the two really goes well with this salad. And invite a friend to do the taste test with you. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, after all. Bon appétit!