Sometime between 9 and 10 o'clock on Saturday night, a headache and increasing wooziness forced me to face up to it: I had caught the bug. Since I am usually unaffected by whatever sniffling thing is going around, and since Patrick had already made it through the sore throat, fever, and stuffy nose phases of the current manifestation and moved squarely into the lingering cough phase, I thought I was home free. But this bug apparently likes to lay low for awhile and then get you when you happen to be far from home and wearing a formal dress that is a bit to restrictive in the rib cage area.
I moped for two days through the sore throat phase, not feeling up to making progress on the dissertation. Instead, I wandered feverishly through the house, wondering in a bored way what sort of thing I could ingest to mix with the pile of DayQuil and vitamins sitting in the bottom of my stomach. That well-tried sick food, chicken soup, required knife work and handling raw meat, neither of which I felt I could muster. The sore-throated husband had recovered on a diet of orange juice, ginger ale, and chocolate icecream with chocolate syrup, the thought of which made my stomach feel gurgly. I found my sore throat steering me away from easy to swallow, soothing liquids and frozen treats toward what, in the end, should have come as no surprise: hot and salty carbohydrates--my comfort food in sickness and in health.
A few days of stovetop popcorn and buttered noodles carried me over into the stuffy nose phase, which, I am happy to report, is a great improvement over its predecessor. Suddenly, I needed greens and protein and lots of it. It turns out I needed a plate of salad slick with bacon grease and runny egg yolk, a healthy dinner turned cholesterol feast in that classic French way: salade frisee aux lardons. With a soft poached egg on top and a garlic rubbed slice of toast on the side, this is the salad that eats like a meal.
Sitting down to this salad gave me the dual sensation of being transported to a farmhouse table somewhere in the French countryside and to an upscale cafe on a Paris street. In the end, though, I was perfectly happy to be seated at a table with a couple of Americans recovering from the flu in Pittsburgh, PA.
Do not be fooled by the simple ingredients. Thrown together they somehow add up to much more than their individual flavors. The hardiness of the frisee stands up to the bacon grease, but its bitterness mellows out in the salty-sweet fat. Shallots lend a depth to the dressing while lemon juice cuts the grease. When the egg yolk oozes out over it all, you realize that salad greens in this country, seldom paired with eggs (and only then the spongy hard-boiled type), have been done a great disservice.
On the matter of poaching eggs:
This was my first time. The results were pretty good, and I have given the technique that I used in the recipe below. But if you type "How to Poach an Egg" into a Google search box, you'll discover an astounding number of hits, some of which I plan to try in the future. A link on a certain handy blog will lead you to the results of a thorough experiment in poaching techniques. Unfortunately the winning method does not appear to have worked for the writer of said handy blog, but she has posted her own technique suggestions here.
In addition to these "How to" guides, you'll find various rants and pleas written by people who have been systematically failed by poached eggs. Even the supremely talented cook of the food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, (who lives in France, by the way) turned to her own readers for help after several disasters. I imagine that the massive amounts of contradictory advice she received contributed to further desperation rather than enlightenment.
Today's oh so timely food section of the New York Times offered some tips for poaching eggs. As usual, "The Minimalist" made it seem so easy. He shows how to poach an egg in red wine, and gives several recipes for dishes featuring runny eggs.
Frisee Salad with Bacon and Poached Egg
From Gourmet, February 1999, adapted for my household vinegar hater. You can substitute red wine vinegar for the lemon juice if you have no such constraint to observe. Serves 4.
1/2 pound frisee, torn into bite-size pieces
6 ounces thick cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper
1. Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, stirring every now and then, until golden. Remove skillet from heat.
2. While cooking bacon, fill a serving bowl with the frisee. Fill another skillet with 1 inch warm water. Fill another saucepan (a wide one if you have one) with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a bare simmer. Break each egg into a teacup. Slide one egg at a time into simmering liquid and push the white around the yolk with a spoon, moving the egg gently. With luck, your egg will rise to the surface, take on an oval shape, and the yolk will be surrounded by the whites. Cover saucepan and remove from heat. Leave them to set for about 3 minutes if you like them runny, or about 5 minutes if you don't. With a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to the skillet of warm water.
3. Reheat bacon in its skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and boil for a few seconds. Immediately pour the hot dressing over frisee and toss. Salt and pepper to taste.