Here is the next step in our honey-based spring holiday menu. This salad features butter lettuce, a delicious but too often overlooked set of greens. Butter lettuce heads are smallish so for 4 people, this recipe calls for 3 heads.
The vinaigrette, with tarragon and citrus, offers intense flavor. As a result, this salad has the “legs” to stand on its own with any dish, like that lamb or ham you are thinking about for this weekend.
Like many a good salad, the work here is all in the vinaigrette and this dish can be quickly prepared for your holiday table.
Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette
Servings: serves 4 generously
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 head butter lettuce (aka Boston lettuce or Bibb lettuce)
- ½ cup fresh cut tarragon leaves
Whisk the lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, honey and mustard in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil while whisking constantly until completely emulsified.
Trim off the core from each head of lettuce and separate the leaves, discarding the tough outer leaves. Rinse the lettuce leaves in a large bowl of cold water and spin dry. Place the lettuce leaves in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the tarragon leaves and gently toss the lettuce with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly.
Stack the lettuce leaves on 4 plates, starting each stack with the larger outer leaves on the bottom and ending with the small inner leaves on top. Serve immediately.
Source: Avec Eric by Erick Rupert
If you mention the name “Jacques Pepin” to someone at random, you stand a pretty good chance hearing, “That’s somebody I’ve heard of, although …” Foodies, of course, can pinpoint this name of one of the world’s top chefs. But non-foodies galore will look at you and struggle to answer. They have heard the name, but they just are not sure where. “Jacques Pepin” has become a phrase that has permeated our culture. From books, television shows, and all kinds of media presentations, Jacques has been on the American landscape for decades.
His latest book, Essential Pepin, describes itself as “more than 700 all-time favorites from my life in food.” With his remarkable life, you know that this book is filled with exceptional ideas.
How do you approach a book like this? It’s not really intimidating, but it is almost 700 pages long and it’s heavy enough to press a chicken. With this book, the starting point is you. What do you have in your refrigerator, what do you need help with. Whatever your need, somewhere in this book there will be solution for you. And, it will be a Pepin solution, a recipe you know is tried and true.
Of course, you can start with easier things, dip your cooking toe into the water, and over time work your way up the ladder of recipe complexity. In fact, over the next months, Suzen and I will be trying recipes from the book and posting ideas here. There are many signature recipes here to share with you.
Where did Suzen and I begin? With this salad. On a cold, rainy day, our fridge held a steak ready to cook and a head of Boston lettuce. What could we do with that lettuce. We turned to Essential Pepin as a reference book, knowing that even “simple” things would be sumptuously offered here.
“My God, it’s the first salad recipe in the book,” I said.
“Let me see,” Suzen said. She read, she thought, she uttered. “Look’s perfect.”
We took our first bites, and smiled. “Perfect” was an understatement. This dressing is the ideal match for buttery Boston lettuce. With cream as the dominant ingredient, the dressing is, naturally, very creamy to the palate. But there is spice from red vinegar and dashes of salt and pepper. The salad is a lovely complement to the taste and texture of a great steak. That’s a starch-free menu for those of you working on those New Year’s resolutions. You remember those, right?
Essential Pepin offers some features to make your recipe search and preparation easier. Each chapter, like Salads, offers its own table of contents so you can easily scan the wonderfully long list of recipes in each chapter. Secondly, the book comes with a CD where Jacques walks you through several dozen basic techniques. You’ve heard about home-made mayonnaise? You’ve never tried it? Then you need this CD to experience a brief moment of creamy nirvana.
Boston Lettuce Salad with Cream Dressing
Yield: serves 6
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves gently torn into bite-size pieces (8-10 cups), washed, and dried
Combine the salt, white pepper, vinegar, and cream in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk for about 20 seconds. The mixture should be foamy and creamy in consistency; it will thicken as you beat it. Add the oil and mix with a spoon to blend it.
While the dressing can be prepared ahead of time, it should only be tossed with the lettuce just before service. The dressing will wilt the lettuces leaves if left standing.
Source: Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin [Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]