Marinated eggs with pancetta vinaigrette
I have always had such a preconceived notion as to what constitutes breakfast. In fact, this applies to most of my meals. Salad for dinner was certainly not on my radar, and the concept of a breakfast that didn’t include some toast or milk seemed completely out there.
All of these prescriptions came back to me in a reassuring way the more I have been forced to eat at home. But in these times where “decision fatigue” is starting to take its toll, sometimes the best thing to do is just throw out all your old rules. So why not go crazy and make salad with breakfast ingredients for dinner.
Caesar salad, salad niçoise, salad lyonnaise all use egg as a central component. The yolk binds the dressing and creates a richness that holds flavour to the chosen (usually slightly bitter) leaf.
This marinated egg technique is often seen in hot bowls of ramen and is much more tasty than a simple boiled egg. As noted in the recipe, the sweet spot for marination is between three and 12 hours. Anything more than that and the eggs tend to get a bit jammy. Simply drain the marinade off if you intend to keep them longer than overnight.
This version uses a dry cured and smoked pancetta, which is the belly cut that I prefer. It makes for a fairly pure representation of the ingredients in the salad, but variations are encouraged. Feel free to use a lovely smoky bacon or guanciale (pig’s cheek). Even some salumi delivers a similar impact.
Along with the listed witlof, celery and croutons are friends of this salad if you want to turn the dish into more of a meal. The cured egg and pancetta vinaigrette are the central ingredients and can easily be built upon.
Ritualistic eating habits have their place, but a salad of eggs and bacon works at any time of the day.
Serves 4 as lunch
- 4 eggs
- 100ml mirin
- 200ml light soy
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 200g pancetta
- 1 shallot, diced
- 200ml sherry vinegar
- 1 bunch Greek oregano, dried
- 100ml olive oil
- 2 heads witlof
- Boil your eggs to your preferred hardness (six minutes for soft through to eight minutes for hard), then cool them in cold water slightly before cracking some of the shell and letting them cool completely in the water.
- Once the eggs are cool, peel off the shell and place them in a ziplock bag. Combine the egg marinade ingredients, mirin, soy and garlic clove, then tip this into the ziplock bag. Push the air out of the bag and seal.
- Keep the eggs in this liquid for at least three hours but no more than 12 hours, as the egg will cure all of the way through.
- Place the whole piece of pancetta into a heavy-based pot and cook over a low heat to render the fat. This fat makes up the majority of the fat component for the vinaigrette, so you are looking to extract about 80 grams. If necessary, add half a cup of water and put the lid on the pot to melt the fat down. This should take about 40 minutes over a low heat.
- Remove the pancetta and cut into slivers.
- Add the shallot to the fat left in the pan and deglaze with the vinegar before removing from the heat and adding the oregano and olive oil.
- Place the pancetta slivers back into the pot with the dressing and let this cool.
- Wash, drain and dry the witlof.
- Cut the eggs in half and place onto a plate. Next place the witlof next to the eggs and generously dress with the pancetta vinaigrette.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 2, 2021 as "Rules don’t apply".
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