Mediocre Chef’s Salad

Continuing to plow my way through the Amanda Hesser canon, tonight I attempted her Chef’s Salad. I blame the results not on her recipe but on my ingredients. And their preparation. Ok, and a little on her recipe.

Let’s see: her chef’s salad contains romaine lettuce, chicken, bacon, egg and avocado. I had fun multi-tasking–boiling the chicken, boiling the eggs, and frying the bacon:

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But she has you fry the bacon on medium low heat so it never really gets crispy. She has you boil the chicken in water, so it really isn’t flavorful. And she has you place the egg for 9 minutes in simmering water, so it never really gets cooked. What’s going on here?!

My avocado was a loser too. Citronelle was closed for Easter so I went to this alternative grocery store a few blocks up on 6th Avenue and all their avocados were bright green. Meaning: they weren’t ripe. I bought the softest one I could find, which on a scale from 1 to soft was nowhere more than a 3. This avocado sucked!

So what was redeeming? The dressing. Amanda has a good dressing recipe: 2 Tbs of dijon mustard, 1 Tbs of red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs of balsamic vinegar, you whisk that together, add salt and pepper, and then drizzle in a half cup of olive oil while whisking until it emulsifies. I really liked the dressing.

The romaine lettuce didn’t feel right for this salad. Is romaine lettuce standard for a chef’s salad? It feels like it isn’t, but I’m not sure what is. Iceberg lettuce? Nah. Perhaps it is romaine.

Here’s the unimpressive result. So impressive, in fact, I’m linking to a small picture of it:

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Why should your eyes have to suffer the indignity of this mediocre chef’s salad? Quick–scroll away, scroll away! Remove the image from your retinas. Stab your eyes out! This chef’s salad is the pits.

6 comments

  1. You say your avocado was green? That means it was not a Hass avocado, not that it was unripe. Well, it sounds as if it was unripe, also, but green wasn’t the giveaway (actually, BRIGHT green could have been a giveaway. It could be a light green, but not crazy BRIGHT). What you got was a Florida or Caribbean avocado–always less buttery than Hass, but with some potential to be okay. I’m sorry you were disappointed in your salad!

  2. Sorry if you already knew the distinction between Hass and Caribbean avocados, and really were drawing the line between bright green and just green. But I’ve seen confused people in the grocery store before, so I wanted to help . . .

  3. If you liked that dressing, next time throw in a clove of garlic. Mmm. I use one vinegar at a time (wine OR balsamic) and excellent olive oil made north of where I live (San Luis Obispo County, Central Coast, Calif.) It’s wonderful and makes even plain salad greens yummy.

    One thing I’d suggest, though, is if your bacon’s not getting crispy, turn the heat up, and if the eggs aren’t cooking, do what you know to do to make sure they do. I know you’re an “amateur” gourmet but you’re a very quick study when it comes to these things. Take the recipe into your own hands and TAME it! :-)

  4. See, when I look at a recipe like this and see that a component is prepared ina way that I’m pretty sure is going to turn out sub-optimally, I just ignore the recipe…

    Why not just fire up that bacon until it gets crunchy and finish off that egg with another few minutes of cooking?… or are you seeking the spirit of the dish as the recipe author presents it. I guess, if you fiddle with the details, you’re not making *her* chef salad anymore, right?

    THough I find that you can get nice crispy bacon on med-low heat — it just takes a lloooooong time.

  5. My mom often boils chicken for salads or sandwiches and it always turns out really good. It might be because she brines it first. Maybe she even cooks it in the brine, I’m not 100% sure on that part.

    I would bake the bacon, rather than frying it. Barefoot Contessa says 15 minutes at 400, and she’s always right, isn’t she? You can make a lot more at one time that way, too, which is good if you’re having people over. Or if you are as hungry as Ina & Jeffrey.

  6. I was also going to say “add a clove of garlic.” That dressing actually resembles closely something I know to be called “Our Favorite Vinaigrette,” which I just found out comes from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I thought my mom called it “Our Favorite Vinaigrette” because it was our favorite vinaigrette. That is true, too. My version of it is 1 T Dijon mustard, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 3 T red wine vinegar, 1 t sugar, salt and pepper, and 1/2 a cup olive oil whisked in in a tiny stream. And salt and pepper, and I add a clove of garlic, minced or not, and some herbes de provence. Then you shake it a lot. It is fabulous on any kind of salad.

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