Professional cook, teacher, and writer Samin Nosrat is, among other things, a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, Michael Pollan’s cooking instructor, and an alumna of the Chez Panisse kitchen. Her book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in 2015.
This is a simple, low-risk entrée into the wonderful world of olive oil poaching, or confiting. The bitter and bright chicory salad with smoke and crunch serves as the perfect foil for the eggs, which emerge from the bath of olive oil resembling lovechildren born of an illicit union between poached and fried parents, with both creamy yolks and lacy whites. —Good Food Awards
day-old rustic Italian bread, crusts discarded and bread torn into bite-sized pieces
extra-virgin olive oil, such as the Good Food Award-winning Seka Hills Arbequina Oil
head Italian chicory, such as radicchio, Treviso, or Castelfranco (In a pinch, red Belgian endive will work, too)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
red wine vinegar
Black Peppercorns and black pepper
eggs (farm fresh if possible)
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
In a large bowl, toss the croutons with 1/4 cup olive oil until evenly coated. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake, turning with a spatula every four or five minutes, for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are evenly golden and crisp. (Use a timer!)
Meanwhile, wash the chicories. I like to tear chicories into large, two- or three-bite pieces after removing the root end with a knife. For the frisée, trim the darkest green parts and the root, and then separate all of the leaves into the chicory mix and wash and spin together. The flavor of frisée is more delicate than the bitter chicory, and its structure will provide a little lift to the salad. Wash and spin it all, and place in a large bowl with the croutons.
Now, get to preparing the olive oil for poaching. The smaller the pot you can find, the less olive oil you’ll need to use. Add enough oil so that the egg you drop in will be completely submerged.
Drop in two garlic cloves and a few black peppercorns, and heat the oil over low heat to 140° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, carefully use your finger to gauge how hot the oil is, starting when it’s still at room temperature. You should be totally comfortable leaving your finger in the oil for a few moments when it’s at 140°F. If the idea of dipping your finger into a pot of oil scares the bejeesus out of you (totally understandable), then try dropping one of the croutons in. Barely any bubbles should appear. If there is serious bubbling, the oil is too hot. Turn off the heat and wait for the temperature to drop.
Before you start to fry, have a slotted spoon and a plate lined with a clean towel ready. Depending on the size of your pot, you’ll be able to cook the eggs one or two at a time. When the oil is ready, gently crack the eggs into coffee cups and slip them in. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the whites are set, then remove from oil and place on landing pad. If they stick to the bottom of the pot, use a metal spatula to gently release them.
When the eggs are done, use 1/2 cup of the oil to make a vinaigrette. Smash the remaining garlic with the side of your knife, and drop it into the oil, then add a healthy pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine, and adjust with salt and more vinegar as needed, remembering that the chicories will want a healthy dose of acid to balance out their bitterness.
Toss the chicories, croutons, Parmesan cheese, freshly cracked black pepper and enough warm vinaigrette to coat generously. Adjust salt and acid as needed. Then, heap generous piles of salad on 4 plates, place an egg on top of each pile, and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Carefully lay a slice of speck over each egg and serve immediately.
Don’t feel like you have to throw out the remaining olive oil! You can let it cool, remove the aromatics, and use it for cooking over the next few days.