Traditions understandably rule the holiday table, but that doesn't mean they can't be updated. One simple update to a wintry seasonal salad is to cook the dressing, which slightly softens sturdy bitter greens while adding bold flavor.
In this recipe from our book "Milk Street Tuesday Nights," which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we pair bitter greens with a rich, warm dressing. The inspiration was the French bistro staple salade frisée au lardons, typically made with bitter frisée lettuce, a poached egg and meaty chunks of salt pork.
For our take, we cook pancetta and shallots with Dijon mustard, olive oil and sherry vinegar for a bright yet comforting dressing to drizzle onto the greens just before serving. Any combination of bitter greens, such as frisée, endive, radicchio, escarole or arugula, works well in this recipe. The greens are best served at room temperature so the dressing doesn't congeal on contact.
Toasted walnuts offer an aromatic crunch that complements curls of nutty Parmesan cheese. To toast the nuts, we spread them evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. A sharp Y-shaped vegetable peeler is the perfect tool for shaving the cheese.
After the holidays, top the salad with a runny fried egg for a heartier meal evocative of its bistro roots.
Greens with Walnuts, Parmesan and Pancetta Vinaigrette
Start to finish: 15 minutes/Servings: 6
12 ounces (12 cups) mixed bitter greens, torn
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved (about ½ cup)
Place the greens in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and ¼ teaspoon salt.
In a medium skillet over medium, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel--lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon pancetta fat from the skillet, then return it to medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the oil and the vinegar mixture, then remove from the heat and whisk until combined. Let sit for 30 seconds to warm through.
Add the warm dressing, walnuts and 1 teaspoon pepper to the greens and toss well. Taste and season with salt. Divide the salad among plates and top each portion with pancetta and Parmesan.