Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Salade de Poulet aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Chicken)

Salade de Poulet aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Chicken) in a rice bowlVinaigrette is versatile — it can be used as a sauce or marinade, but it's most commonly used as a dressing on salad. In this recipe, the vinaigrette is used as a marinade on the mushrooms and as a dressing for the salad.

Note to brides: Do not order a Raspberry Vinaigrette on slippery butter lettuce for your wedding dinner! It may end up on your future mother-in-law's dress {or worse, yours!}.
"If you pour oil and vinegar into the same vessel,
you would call them not friends but opponents."
Oil & Vinegar
Oil — I used an extra virgin olive oil. {BTW, don't store olive oil in the refrigerator. It gets hard, and you have to wait a long time for it to pour again! I thought I was being so smart. Ha!} Use the best oil you can afford, but not something with a lot of taste since you don't want it to overpower the other ingredients.

Vinegar — I used a cider vinegar, but you could use any flavored vinegar (such as balsamic, sherry, or raspberry) or even citrus juice, such as lemon or orange juice. Don't use plain old white vinegar. Vinegar is made from the fermentation of alcohol {so that's why you should save any leftover red or white wine…if there's any to be saved!}.

Cooking {and baking, for that matter} is all about emulsions. A vinaigrette, which is usually a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, is a temporary emulsion. Normally, oil and water (in this case, vinegar) don't mix. By whisking them together vigorously and adding the oil slowly, you create a temporary emulsion, not a permanent emulsion such as mayonnaise or hollandaise. If a vinaigrette separates, it's easy to just shake it or whisk it again to combine the ingredients. A bit of mustard or honey helps stabilize the vinaigrette and keep it emulsified.

Making Vinaigrette
To make a vinaigrette, first mix the vinegar and aromatics (for this recipe, chives and shallots). Then slowly whisk in the oil. {You can use a blender, food processor or shake it in a jar if you don't want to do it the old-fashioned way.}

Tip: It's best to use oil and vinegar that are at room temperature. After whisking, let the mixture sit for up to 3 hours at room temperature to marry the flavors together.

You can store vinaigrette in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week.

Here's a video showing how to make a vinaigrette.
"To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist —
the problem is entirely the same in both cases.
To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar."
—Oscar Wilde
Playing Around

Rice Paper bowlIf you read my post on Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops, you'll know that I was at the most amazing restaurant over the weekend called Plus Minus Café in Mont Tremblant. I was inspired by the salad that was served in a rice bowl, so I asked the waiter how the salad bowl was made. He satisfied my curiosity…

salade from Plus Minus Café
from the menu at Plus Minus Ca

Take rice paper and dunk it in a large vat of a deep fryer and use a ladle or spider to form it. So, I went home and tried it. At first I was a little wary of deep frying since I'd had some trouble with hot oil over-flowing my pot before! I bravely tried it again, and it worked. Once the oil reached 350˚F, I carefully lowered a sheet of dry rice paper between my spider and a spaghetti ladle. {I wish I'd had one of these!} In less than a minute, the rice bowl was fried and ready to be dried and filled with salad.

I also tried baking a rice bowl. I sprayed a heat-proof bowl with cooking spray. Then I dipped a piece of rice paper in water to soften it. After a minute of soaking, I carefully laid it into the bowl. After baking it at 400˚F for 5-10 minutes, it was crisp and translucent.

Greens and Sardines
Go Greens MesclunFor the salad part, the recipe called for spinach. But why go with boring old spinach when you can eat flowers along with 30 or more other different greens? I found a bag of these delicious greens at the Byward Fruit Market that sells some of the most exotic fruit and vegetables you can find in Ottawa. The bag of greens I picked up contained pansies, nasturtiums, and every imaginable leaf and petal that you can eat. Plus it looked pretty!

Chicken or sardines? The recipe called for sardines. After my fiasco with anchovies, I wasn't ready to stomach sardines this week. A chicken salad sounded much more elegant! After marinating it in lime juice, shallots, and salt, and pepper for about an hour, I grilled it on the barbeque.

Salade de Poulet aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Chicken) mise en place
Click to enlarge image

You can find the recipe for Salade de Poulet ou Sardines Crues aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Chicken or Sardines) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!
Vinaigrette made without the use of potassium sorbate, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate, calcium disodium EDTA, or soya lecithin.
Salade de Poulet aux Epinards (Spinach Salad with Chicken) in a rice bowlTasting Notes
This was an easy meal and everything came together without a lot of dishes! The fact that you can eat the bowl makes it extra fun, and a bit of crunch in the salad is just what's needed. I also sprinkled some sea salt on top of the salad to kick up the flavor.
"A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better
than steak with someone you hate."
Next Week (September 17)
• Éstouffade de Boeuf Provençale (Braised Beef Casserole, Provence Style) page 139-140 {discussion of braising and stewing, page 140}

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $734.85 + $15.09 (salad) + $2.80 (vinaigrette) = $752.74

Butter used so far: 7 pounds, 27 tablespoons


The Food Librarian said...

That salad bowl is the coolest thing I've ever seen! (well, besides the salad you made to go IN it)!

NKP said...

I love the rice paper salad bowl! And your greens are beautiful, I wish we could get produce like that here.
As to the wine in the vinaigrette...
I am unfamiliar with the concept of leftover wine so will have to take your word for it. ;)

Megan said...

I would love to be able to get greens like that. They are beautiful. And the edible bowl is pretty cool too.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the ingenious salad bowl! Rice paper? You've got to share more on that one! Please.... *Ü* It looks gorgeous! And the chicken sounds like a fabulous substitute! Tonight was Back to School Night; I had ice cream duty. The salad and vinaigrette will wait 'til tomorrow!
Hugs ~ Glennis

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

beautiful photos!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

What a cool idea to serce a salad! The salad itself is gorgeous but served like that makes it extra special!

Helene said...

Love the idea of the rice salad bowl. I would love to find fresh sardines or anchovies here. Nice and refreshing!!

Anne said...

That is one beautiful salad- wow!

SteamyKitchen said...

what a fab idea! going to experiment with that bowl....

Anonymous said...