When I think of the years of pulling dandelions I have under my belt, the irony does not escape me that when desiring to elevate them with this beautiful French salad that I suddenly cannot find enough! I applied all the guidelines I learned from Kate Armstrong from my Urban Foraging class which quickly narrowed my foraging opportunity to offer less than this recipe required. Not wishing to hop any fences to steal from neighbors (though they’d be grateful I’m sure) I found the rest of my supply locally and will add dandelion greens are sold at some Farmer’s Markets and Whole Foods.
I have been longing to employ my newly discovered foraged greens in a dish other than a cold salad. Poking around in my cookbook library surfaced this absolutely delicious recipe from a unique French cookbook ‘Cuisine Du Terroir’: Original Recipes Collected by the Master Chefs of France (The Lost Domain of French Cooking). The cookbook features recipes from all the Provinces of France of which there are 39. This recipe comes from the region of Champagne.
This recipe represents my favorite type of food; simple and clean, with distinct, robust flavors. The book reports this is a spring salad meant to be eaten before the end of May when the dandelions are ‘small and very green and bitter’ (of course I’m sure imagining you’d be harvesting them in the wild…..not the ‘wilds’ of Whole Foods!).
WARM DANDELION AND BACON SALAD (Pissenlits au Lard)
Adapted from Cuisine Du Terroir
Serves : 4
· 250-300 g or 9-10 ounces dandelion greens
· 150 g or 5 ounces potatoes (I used yellow)
· 150 g or 5 ounce pork belly*
· 1 shallot, finely minced
· 1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
· 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used the vinegar that I made!)
· Salt and pepper to taste
*the original recipe calls for ‘green streaky bacon’. In consulting with my butcher he indicated that is really more common in Europe and is uncured, unseasoned bacon. The closest substitute would be pork belly which is uncured and unseasoned.
1. Wash dandelion leaves. The original recipe suggested smaller leaves though if you purchase them they may be quite large. If using larger leaves tear them in half or thirds (so your prepared leaves are a manageable size to eat!)
2. Boil potato(s) unpeeled for 20-30 minutes until done. Peel and smash.
3. Cut the pork belly into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces. Sauté in a small pan until crisped (due to the fat content it will not become totally crispy as bacon would). Set pan with pork belly aside.
4. Using a heavy skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) add dandelion leaves, smashed potato, shallot, and onion. On low heat begin to cook mixture stirring frequently. The dandelion leaves will begin to wilt quickly.
5. While the mixture above is beginning to cook, reheat the skillet with the crisped pork belly. When warm, add the vinegar, stirring frequently to caramelize the pork in the vinegar. This will happen very quickly if the pan is warm (1-2 minutes).
6. Add the pork to the dandelion mixture, along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine and serve immediately.
Some key guidelines for harvesting wild dandelions:
· Do not forage next to roadways or other areas where the plants may be exposed to pollution of any sort.
· Do not harvest if there is any chance they have been sprayed (e.g. parks, unknown yards, common green areas)
· Avoid areas frequented by animals, wild or domestic.
· Do not harvest is plants are very large. These plants are considered to have more medicinal properties and need to be processed differently to be safe for consumption.