This post has been due for at least two years now. When I just came to Fontainebleau I immediately fell in love with salade aux chèvre chaud (literally salad with hot goat's cheese) and it stayed my absolute favorite throughout the months of my residence. Though very simple to make it is incredibly rich in flavor and texture. Just imagine savory hot and melting goat's cheese with sweet fig jam, crispy toast and walnut over crunchy chilled salad leaves dressed with honey and French mustard.
The salad is traditional all over Île-de-France and of course it is cooked in many different ways. As I kept eating it wherever I saw it, I figured out several details which do make a difference to me. So here is how I now make it myself.
Luckily the proper kind of goat's cheese is available in Moscow (so I assume it is available in almost every city). Chèvre in French stands for goat's cheese overall, but this salad needs a specific variety. It is normally shaped into a cylinder (around 4 cm by 12 cm). It's coated with white edible rind (similar to the rind of Camembert). Inside it is firmer and drier than Camembert, but once you heat it, it becomes completely soft and melting (and also really intensifies in flavor).
The one I buy in Moscow is Sainte Maure (looks like this). It is available from large supermarkets and hypermarkets. It is definitely not an artisanal cheese I'd get in France, but it works really well for this salad. When you will be choosing among different varieties of goat's cheese available where you live, look at the shape (you need a cylinder of around 4 cm by 12 cm). After the shape look at the maturity. The cheese should have the white rind and be quite firm and springy. The completely young, fresh and soft varieties (like this one) aren't exactly what you need.
Fig jam is the best for this salad because there is some magic in how the goat's cheese goes with figs. It is also quite easily available from supermarkets. However if you can't get it, just use some intense and thick cherry, blackcurrant or even strawberry jam.
The mustard needs to be French (mild and a little sweet and sour). Dijon mustard with whole seeds in it is ideal but not a must.
The rest of ingredients are nothing special and once you've got them you are just 15 minutes away from a true feast. To me, this salad makes a delicious light lunch or dinner on its own. If you are more serious about your dinner, it can definitely make a great starter.
Salade aux chèvre chaud (French salad with hot goat's cheese)
2 bunches of leafy salad (it is good to have several different varieties, e.g. lettuce, iceberg, romaine), tear into large bite size peaces
30 g (a handful) of walnuts, slightly toast in a dry pan, let cool and chop coarsely
For the dressing:
4 tea spoons of Dijon mustard (preferably with seeds)
4 tea spoons of light honey
2/3 tea spoon of sea salt
2 tea spoons of white wine vinegar (can be substituted for lemon juice)
3 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the hot goat's cheese:
12 slices of baguette (just below 1 cm thick, the baguette doesn't have to be extra fresh as you are going to toast it)
2 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 table spoons of fig jam
200 g of goat's cheese / Chèvre (Sainte Maure or any other appropriate cheese you can find - it's explained above how to pick the right variety), slice 6-7 mm thick
Combine all ingredients of the dressing in a little bowl and whisk till you get a smooth emulsion. Set aside.
Layer the baguette slices on a baking tray. Slightly brush each slice with olive oil. Spread some fig jam over the slices (it should be around 2 mm thick). Cover the jam with cheese slices.
Bake the toasts in the oven preheated to 180C for 5 minutes (the cheese should start melting a little). Take out of the oven and keep warm till you serve the salad.
Just before plating up, add the dressing to the salad leaves and toss. Place some salad on each serving plate. Sprinkle with walnuts. Arrange 3-4 cheese toasts on top and serve.
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