Photo courtesy of Deborah Jones
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.
This salad is all about freshness. Use plenty of freshly picked fines herbes: parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil; harder herbs, such as savory, rosemary, and marjoram, would be too strong. Finish it with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Buy nice rounded, mature heads of Bibb lettuce, with good weight; these will have the greatest amount of tender yellow interior leaves. If the leaves have become at all soft and leathery, a rinse in cold water will refresh them.
1. Carefully cut out the core from each head of lettuce and separate the leaves, but keep each head of lettuce together; discard any tough outer leaves. Because each head of lettuce will be reassembled, the easiest way to work is with one head at a time. First, place the leaves in a bowl of cold water to refresh them and remove any dirt, then lift out and spin-dry in a salad spinner.
2. Place the leaves from a single head of lettuce in a bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, 1½ teaspoons of the shallots and chives, and 1 tablespoon each of the parsley, tarragon, and chervil. Then toss gently with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette (see below) and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Repeat with the remaining heads.
3. For each serving, arrange the outer lettuce leaves as a base on the plate and rebuild each head of lettuce, ending with the smallest, most tender leaves.
To make the House Vinaigrette:
1. Combine the mustard and vinegar in a blender and blend at medium speed for about 15 seconds. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in ½ cup of the oil. Don’t be tempted to add all the oil to the blender or the vinaigrette will become too thick. It should be very creamy.
2. Transfer the vinaigrette to a small bowl and, whisking constantly, slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup oil. (The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Should the vinaigrette separate, use a blender or immersion blender to re-emulsify it.)
Excerpted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2004. Photographs by Deborah Jones.
Originally featured in 3 Classic French Recipes from Chef Thomas Keller