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Summer Salad with Grilled Goats Cheese, Crispy Bacon, Tomatoes and a Crown of Fried Sliced Potatoes.

The French are masters of pleasure seeking and their soiree with creating mouth watering and visually exciting food is undeniably a global success. Putting aside the Michelin star studded scene in Paris for a moment, I was drawn to exploring the more traditional bistro, café-down-a-picteresque- magnolia-
covered-street, type of fare. I was not disappointed. These hidden gems unveiled
exceptional cooking standards, clever touches and dish after dish produced seriously high accolade from this humble foodie from Kenya. This genre of French cooking is definitely more countryside-rustic – but so is my style of cooking and this meant, bold, robust flavours.

This first recipe that I share with you today is a recreation from an absolutely wonderful little French tavern, known as the Relais du Gascon, located in the pretty area of Montmarte where I was staying. This is a must to visit, but be prepared to sit sharing tables with folks engaging in busy conversation, with jugs of wine being passed over your head, amidst shouts of orders between the waiters. Just my kind of place – a homely affair run by people who take their cooking seriously!

This particular dish surprised me as it’s not what we may classify as stereotypically , delicate French fare – yet it has all the makings of a splendid dish. It is essentially a salad, but with the addition of a heap of thin, perfectly fried slices of pommes de terre as the crowning glory, this should definitely be treated as a main course salad.

Many thanks for the Chefs at Relais du Gascon for finding a way of presenting this on your lovely menu (and a wonderful sister for finding such a gem) – this will be repeated many times in my home!

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2 heads of gem lettuce or 1 large head of iceberg lettuce

250 gms smoked back bacon

2 tomatoes

3 tbs of seedless black olives

1 tsp crushed garlic

2 tbs finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 small rounds of fresh goats cheese

2 small slices of bread

3 small white potatoes, thinly sliced

Oil for deep frying and some extra for shallow frying

For the dressing

2 tbs of white wine vinegar

2 tbs white wine

1 small shallot minced

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp mustard

½ cup vegetable oil

Salt and pepper for seasoning

½ tsp dried tarragon for the béarnaise sauce

½ tsp dried tarragon for the goats cheese

Start by tearing up the gem or iceberg lettuces into large pieces. Set aside in a bowl of iced water to retain its crispiness.

Chop the tomatoes in large rustic wedges.

Prepare your dressing before the next step so it has a little time to cool..

For the Dressing

In a saucepan, combine the wine, vinegar and shallot and boil until reduced.

Place this all into a blender. Add the egg yolks and blend.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon juice and the mustard and blend.

With the machine on, slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable oil; blend until smooth.

Season the dressing with salt and pepper; stir in the tarragon and leave to cool.

Next, heat a wide frying pan, adding a small glug of oil. Fry the bacon until beginning to crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Keep the pan aside as you want to finish the potatoes in this same pan.

Around ten minutes before serving, heat the oil for deep frying. Add the potatoes and fry until just beginning to crisp. You still want the potatoes to be soft in the centre yet just beginning to crisp on the edges. Drain on a paper towel.

Place the goats cheese, scattered with a smattering of tarragon, under a hot grill for around 6 minutes. As these are cooking, toast the two slices of bread. Place the goats cheese on the toast.

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In the bacon pan that you have set aside, add one tbs of oil and gently heat. Add the garlic and the parsley, letting this fry for a minute or so. Now add the already fried potatoes and gently toss around, trying not to break the potatoes. Only do this for one minute and turn off the heat.

Now start to assemble the dish. Gently mix together the lettuce, the tomatoes, olives and bacon. Pour over the cooled Béarnaise dressing, once again combining all the ingredients gently.

Place a crown of crispy potato slices on top and place the goats cheese toast on each side. Fit for a king, ( or queen ) this food is ready for feasting upon!

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