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At a farewell party for Christine Muhlke, who is leaving her job as the food editor at The New York Times Magazine to become executive editor at Bon Appetit, the menu was very Gilded Age. There was veal tongue salad and coquilles St. Jacques, Tom & Jerry's mixed by Christine's husband, Oliver, and a good boozy punch, all laid out on the diner counters at M. Wells in Long Island City.
Toward the end of the party, just before the chef brought out a bunch of freshly shot woodcock for guests to help pluck, they set out a bowl of salad. All the greens -- brussels sprouts and arugula -- were finely shredded but still crisp, and there were slivers of venison jerky, flecks of celery, and bits of dried cranberry and walnut. Wrapping it all was a snappy and faintly spicy vinaigrette. A friend and I declared it the world's best salad. But we'd had Oliver's Tom & Jerry and were feeling merry. So maybe it's not the best, but it's definitely in the hall of fame. And I can't think of a better antidote to a month of gilded holiday gorging. Here is my made-up version of it:
Brussels Sprouts Salad a la M. Wells
- 1/4 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shaved on a mandoline
- 1 cup finely chopped baby arugula
- 1 celery rib, trimmed and finely diced (1/8-inch dice)
- 4 slices speck, cut into slivers
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch piment d'espelette, or to taste
- Half a lemon, to taste
In a large mixing bowl, combine the brussels sprouts, arugula, celery, speck, cranberries, walnuts, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil and add the piment d'espelette. Squeeze on about 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Gently fold the salad together, over and over, until it is fully blended. Taste and adjust seasoning.