Ultimate Bistro Salad:
Salade de Laitue
Living whole heads of Bibb lettuce, high quality vinaigrette components, and the synergistic combination of a few fresh herbs result in a deceptively simple yet exquisitely balanced salad, one that is the best imaginable of its kind. Period.
Chef Thomas Keller writes in his fabulous bistro cookbook Bouchon, “The word laitue comes from the Latin word for milk, from the milky juices some lettuces can exude. Hearty, buttery Bibb leaves are a good example of the rich juicy quality lettuce can have. They’re so big and rich, in fact, that this salad almost qualifies as a meal in itself.”
Salade de Laitue Recipe
Salade de Laitue (makes 2 large salads as pictured)
2 heads Bibb lettuce
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 T. shallot, minced
1 T. chives, minced
2 T. parsley leaves
2 T. tarragon leaves
2 T. chervil leaves
1/4 c. House Vinaigrette (see below)
2 t. fresh lemon juice
House Vinaigrette Inspired by Thomas Keller
2 T. high quality dijon mustard
1/4 c. high quality red wine vinegar
3/4 c. mild tasting avocado oil blend (the Chef uses canola oil)
Blend mustard and vinegar in the small bowl of a food processor. Stream in 1/4 cup of oil. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl, then finish the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining oil into the emulsion. The Chef notes that this method prevents the vinaigrette from becoming too thick. (There will be extra vinaigrette left over for other recipes).
Working one head of Bibb lettuce at a time, cut out the core. Carefully separate the leaves and place them in a salad spinner. Fill the salad spinner with cold water and swish the leaves to remove any dirt. Drain the spinner then spin to dry the leaves. Place the lettuce leaves in a large clean dry bowl.
Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add half of the shallots and herbs. Gently toss with 2 tablespoons of the House Vinaigrette to coat, then sprinkle one teaspoon of lemon juice over the leaves and very gently like a wave, toss again.
Compose the salad on a plate by placing the larger greener leaves on the bottom and building the salad like a flower with the smaller pale leaves on top.
Repeat with the second head of lettuce. Preparing this salad one head at a time ensures that the finished salad has the correct proportions of large green leaves to small pale leaves…another clear illustration of the Chef’s attention to detail.
“With the Bibb salad, we give a little blast of fresh lemon juice at the end to make it really sparkle,” writes Chef Keller.
It sparkles. Just add a carafe of Sancerre, and a baguette with perhaps some goat cheese…
*Recipe adapted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller published by Artisan Books, New York, New York
*Bistro images shot at the ever-charming Atelier Atalore, Las Vegas
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