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Spring Salad with Sweet and Sour Aigre-Doux

Spring Salad with Alain Passard’s Aigre-Doux

This Spring Salad with Alain Passard’s Aigre-Doux dressing came to this blog after a long lonely year in the dark. I know that sounds like a seasonal metaphor, but it’s not.

I may have a blog, a podcast, a twitter account and all the rest of that stuff. But really, I’m a luddite and I didn’t discover this recipe via a search engine, or even a blog (though I hope you do).

The reason this simple and seasonal Farmers Market Spring Salad spent nearly a year waiting to see the light of blog is because I first saw it in the LA Times. Which is a newspaper. You remember newspapers.

When I read the newspaper I still like to hold it in my hands and get smudgy ink on my fingers. Well, I shouldn’t say I like to get smudgy ink on my fingers, but I tolerate it.

Which is how, late in the spring last year, I found myself tearing out a recipe of Russ Parsons’ version of Alain Passard’s Spring Salad with Aigre-Doux.

Aigre-Doux? What’s that? It sounds French.

I consider myself a snooty Francophile. I still thumb through my mid-century Simone Beck and Louis Diat cookbooks – the kind without pictures –  but I’d never heard of Aigre-Doux. How could that be? So I tore out the recipe and its accompanying article on Alain Passard’s l’Arpege restautrant and tucked them in my desk drawer. Where, all this time, they’ve sat among the pencil sharpeners, paperclips, and solar-powered calculators. (I told you I was a luddite).

It turns out aigre-doux is a generic term for sweet and sour. Monsieur Passard adopted the term as a moniker for the beautifully balanced honey and vinegar sauce he uses to dress simple salads. Which, according to Mr. Parsons, is “the single most memorable dish” from his trip to l’Arpege restaurant. Which is saying a lot.

I’m glad I remembered this salad too. I admit it took me a while, but it was worth the wait.

Spring Salad with Aigre-Doux

The recipe attached is based on the newspaper clipping I dug out of my desk drawer. However, the success of the salad doesn’t depend on the written word so much as the freshness and quality of well-chosen produce – some raw and some cooked. Russ Parsons chose radish and fennel amongst others. For my salad, I took his suggestion and made seasonal substitutions based on what was available at the Hollywood Farmers Market last week. I also changed the Aigre-Doux slightly. I had fresh walnut oil that refused to be ignored. Which is just fine, Mr. Parsons clearly indicates that you can take the concept and run with it as long as you keep the ratios in balance. However, he says all of this better than me, so please check out his thoughts on the subject.

For my Spring Salad I chose an array of young greens: chard, beet, frisée and frills of baby red mustard – so sweet and nutty you won’t believe it’s not candy. Roasted beets add an earthy balance, and best of all you’ll notice that I shaved a few rounds of sharp-eyed raw baby turnips into this salad. Some people wait for that crazy ground hog to announce the change of season each year, but I turn to another harbinger. The turnip. As soon as those perfect little babies poke their fat white butts out of the dirt, I know spring has sprung.

I hope you find your own version of this Spring Salad and give this sweet and sour Aigre-Doux a try. GREG

Alain Passard’s Aigre-Doux Spring Salad with Alain Passard’s Aigre-Doux

Spring Salad with Alain Passard’s Aigre-Doux

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from LA TimesPublished
Spring Salad with Alain Passard's Aigre-Doux

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup walnut oil
  • 8 baby beets (washed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 8 baby carrots
  • 1 cup shelled, fresh peas
  • 2 raw baby turnips (peeled)
  • 4 cup loosely packed baby spring greens (mix and match as you like)

Directions

Make the aigre-doux: In a small bowl, blend honey, white wine vinegar and lemon juice with an immersion blender. With the blender running, slowly add the walnut oil, blending until you have a smooth sauce with a consistency somewhere between heavy cream and loose mayonnaise. You will have more dressing than required for the recipe; the remainder will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for several days (just blend briefly before using).

Cook vegetables: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the tops off the beets; save for another use. Place beets in a baking dish, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; cover the dish tightly with foil. Roast in the heated oven until soft and fragrant; about 30 minutes. Remove skin while warm, then cut in half and set aside.

Prepare an ice bath.

Cook the baby carrots in a large pot of rapidly boiling, generously salted water until just tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes depending on size. Refresh in ice bath to stop cooking, pat dry and cut in half lengthwise. Cook the peas in the same pot of water, refresh in ice bath, pat dry and set aside.

Assemble the salad: Slice the peeled raw baby turnips crosswise, as thinly as you can. Place them into a work bowl, followed by the baby greens, and peas. Toss to combine.

When ready to serve, re-blend the aigre-doux briefly to recover the consistency. Spoon a generous few tablespoons into the work bowl with the vegetables; toss to combine. Divide the salad between four plates. Nestle the peeled, roasted beets and boiled baby carrots on top. Serve immediately with more aigre-doux on the side.