Saturday, as you should all know, was National Pig Day in the United States. Curious as to how this came about, I trawled briefly on the old Internets and came up with this, from holidayinsights.com: “Ellen Stanley, a Texas art teacher created National Pig Day in 1972. Her intent was to to recognize and be thankful for pigs as intelligent domestic animals. There is no evidence to suggest that this is truly a ‘National’ day, which requires an act of congress.” First of all, what is congress thinking? This situation needs to be rectified at once! Secondly, I’m afraid Ellen Stanley may have been a bit misguided when it came to inventing a reason to celebrate the pig. I think most people would consider National Pig Day as a day to appreciate the multitude of flavors and textures given to us by the humble pig. Homer Simpson said it best when he (unwittingly) referred to the pig as “a wonderful, magical animal.” As evidenced by that first link, food-loving types will be overjoyed to have an excuse to indulge in as many pork products as possible. (Side note: I am making those bacon bowls as soon as I get my hands on some decent cooking equipment. If anyone gets to it before I do, I want to hear all about it!)
Upon learning of this holiday, Nick and I set out to build a meal around it. Unfortunately, we had planned on having salads for dinner, in order to use up the last of that fine head of lettuce before it went limp. Luckily, I have never been above putting pork products center stage in my salads. So I decided on an old favorite of ours, the poached egg and bacon salad. This pretty much has infinite variations, so I went to the store to see what I could find for tonight’s salad. (Yes, I went to the store, not the market – it was Saturday and the market is on Sundays and Thursdays.) Browsing the pre-packaged charcuterie section, I decided on a bag of lardons fumés. Hey, the bacon is already cut up for me! It doesn’t get much easier than that. Blue cheese is always nice with bacon, and salads, so I selected a round of Fourme d’Ambert, a relatively mild blue cheese from Auvergne. Roasted, salted hazelnuts went into my shopping bag next – I like nuts on my salad for crunch.
Armed with my salad fixins, dinner came together in a snap. First I cooked the lardons over low heat in order to render the fat, then turned it up to get them nice and brown.
Once the lardons were crispy on the outside, but still chewy in the center, I took them out and added a julienned onion to pick up the fond. (You don’t expect me to just leave all that bacon fat and fond behind, do you?)
When the onions were softened and sufficiently bacon-y, I removed the pan from the heat and replaced it with a pot of salted water for poaching eggs. While it heated up, I began to put the salads together. Lettuce, cleaned and torn, went on the plates first, followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Next went the onions, lardons, and crumbled Fourme d’Ambert. I poached the eggs one at a time and placed one atop each salad, then sprinkled them with the hazelnuts.
We raised our glasses to the pig and dug in. Happy National Pig Day, everyone!