Salade de roquette, vinaigrette à l’échalote et amandes grillées
Last week I had lunch with someone who told me about a cooking class she had attended. It was one of those conversations between two persons who don’t know each other very well, who suspect they are in the company of a fellow food enthusiast, but are still trying to determine how deeply infected the other person is, and just how much detail might be too much detail.
So they end up talking in layers like a mille-feuille, giving general information at first, to test the waters and see how the other person reacts. If he/she prompts for more, they elaborate a little, and if the eyes of their interlocutor still don’t glaze over, then they feel completely at ease and connected, and can lavishly share the mouth-watering details and the minute practicalities of whatever dish, recipe, or technique they are conversing about.
Of course, my lunch companion and I ended up discussing the whole menu that they had prepared during the cooking class. In passing, she explained the word contiser, a culinary term I knew not (I have found just a few references to the English translation “to contise”), which means to cut regular slits in a raw piece of meat or fish to insert ingredients that will lend flavor during the cooking — like slivers of truffle or, in her case, a sprig of fresh rosemary in a chicken breast. This is a bit like larder (to lard), only larder should theoretically be used for pieces of lard inserted in meat.
She also mentioned (getting to the point here) preparing a vinaigrette cuite à l’échalote, a cooked shallot vinaigrette, which had you slow-cook the shallots in balsamic vinegar (optionally cut with water) until completely absorbed. This idea stuck with me, and I decided to give it a try on Sunday morning, for brunch with our friends Marion and Benoît.
I intended to use the vinaigrette to dress a fresh green bean salad, but the store was out, so I got arugula instead. I dressed it quite simply with a little olive oil and walnut oil, added in the cooked shallots, and tossed with chopped toasted almonds. The trio was a very successful mix of textures (snappy greens, crunchy almonds, soft shallots) and flavors (tangy, peppery, piquant, sour, toasted and sweet) in every bite.
- 180 ml (3/4 cup) finely minced shallots, from about 6 tiny shallots
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 55 grams (1/3 cup) almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
- 250 grams (9 ounces) arugula (a.k.a. rucola or rocket)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil (use part walnut or hazelnut oil if you have it)
- Place the shallots in a small saucepan with the vinegar, 160 ml (2/3 cup) water and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered over medium heat about 20 minutes, until the liquids have evaporated and you're left with a syrupy shallot confit. Let cool. (This can be prepared the day before and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
- In a salad bowl, toss together the greens and the oil so the leaves are evenly coated. Add in the shallot confit and the almonds, and toss gently to combine.
- Serve immediately, or let the salad sit a little to soften the leaves slightly and develop the flavors.