The Handoff: Salade Chevre Chaude
By Marlena Simon
When I left you on Tuesday, I was gathering ingredients for a dish to take to a Whack-a-Doodle party to which I had been invited. I thought about Allison’s herbed pea and fava bean purée and wondered how I could play on that. I decided to make a pesto to coat the goat cheese. This wouldn’t be an ordinary pesto though – why put cheese on cheese?
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I was also worried that garlic might overpower such a mild cheese. I pulled a bunch of herbs from my garden, threw them in the food processor with some local peanuts, and drizzled a little oil just to keep the blade running smoothly and bring it all together. I didn’t want to make it too moist because I knew it would be difficult to coat the goat cheese. Slicing goat cheese isn’t easy but for this hurdle I had a handy trick up my sleeve. I took some non flavored dental floss and wrapped it around the cheese, as I tightened the floss it sliced a perfect round off of the top. I took each slice and dipped it into a beaten egg before tossing the pesto on it. Then I placed the cheese in the freezer. I blanched the green beans to keep them crisp and sliced and washed all my veggies. Traditional salade chevre chaude uses a classic French dressing, not the red kind made with ketchup, but a Dijon based vinaigrette. Dressing is a very fickle thing, anyone who has had a soggy over dressed salad can attest that dressing is what can turn a salad bad. Be sure to taste along the way, using a piece of lettuce – not your finger.
We were ready to head to Roundabout Farm for the Whack-a-Doodle party but another guest was arriving at the same time… hurricane Irene. The pouring rain was not an ideal situation for gathering roosters out of the hen house. Adding to this was the fact that I was the only one in the group who had actually ever killed a chicken. I worked on a chicken farm for three months, but we killed chickens mostly to put them out of their misery not for eating, a very different process. I will spare you all the gruesome details but I will say that before we began we did stop, take a moment and thank the roosters. The cleaning process took a while and during that time, I went inside and prepared the finishing touches on my salad.
I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and took the cheese out of the freezer and placed them directly in the oven. I tossed the green beans in the dressing separately as they require a bit more vinaigrette then everything else. The salad looked beautiful and the cheese was oozing ever so slightly as I took it out of the oven. All the flavors went really well together, the saltiness of the peanuts with the creamy cheese and the added sweetness of the tomatoes. The crunch of the green beans and cucumbers against the melting cheese made it seem like a meal in itself let alone a first course. As the rain poured down around us we felt truly blessed, our bellies were full and we felt like we had earned every bite.
Salade Chevre Chaude
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: serves 6
For the salad, this is flexible but I used these items:
- 1 head of red leaf lettuce
- 1 Cucumber, sliced
- Green beans, snipped and blanched
- 1 Red pepper, sliced
- Tomatoes, heirlooms please, sliced
For the warm goat cheese crouton:
- 1 log chevre, we use local Caramont Farm
- 1 bunch parsley, basil, marjoram, oregano (a handful of each)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup nuts, I used peanuts because I live in Virginia y’all!
- 1 or 2 eggs beaten
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 Tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 6 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Vinaigrette: Combine vinegar, mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let stand 15 minutes. Then whisk in the oil, adding it in a steady stream. This is something that should be adjusted to taste.
- Salad: Toss the beans separately in the vinaigrette as they require more then the rest of the salad. Then lightly dress the salad.
- Crouton: Grab a piece of dental floss (not flavored) and wrap it around the log and slice rounds. Place them in the fridge. In a food processor add herbs and peanuts and pulse into a puree. Then with the processor running drizzle the olive oil until all the ingredients are just combined but not very wet. You should have oil left over. Dip the cheese in the egg and then roll in the “pesto”. Place on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer until ready to cook. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook for ten minutes or longer depending on how long they have been in the freezer. The chevre should be soft to touch in the center and oozing slightly through the herb crust.
- Assembling the Salad: Put the tossed salad on the plate topped with the green beans. Top with a warm gooey crouton and dig in.
Marlena Simon lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and two children. She loves food and sharing it with friends. She grew up with a mother who was an amazing cook and taught her many things, most importantly to savor every bite.