Red Salad from Fergus

December 31, 2009

Most people think of Fergus Henderson as a man who mainly cooks meat. His best-known book is Nose to Tail Cooking, in which he successfully uses all parts of the pig. In the first season of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie we watched Fergus lovingly place half of a pig's head on a plate.  But the first time I ate at his London restaurant, St.John, the dish that blew me away was not his famous marrow bones, but a simple plate of asparagus. Plump spears, each one still taut and dripping with flavor. I ate them with my fingers, licking up every morsel.

Last night a friend cooked an entire dinner from Fergus' newest book, Beyond Nose to Tail. The most memorable dish was this gorgeously simple salad. Think of it as a deconstructed borscht, the way you wish borscht would taste except it doesn't. It glows with color – the perfect winter vegetable. And I love the way Fergus writes; who could resist "nustle your blob"?

Serves 6

2 raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated
¼ raw red cabbage with its core cut out, very finely sliced
1 small red onion, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom and finely sliced
6 healthy dollops of crème fraîche
2 healthy bunches of chervil, picked

For the Dressing

Healthy splashes of extra virgin olive oil
A little gesture of balsamic vinegar
A small handful of extra-fine capers
Sea salt and black pepper

Mix everything together for the dressing. Toss all your raw red vegetables in the dressing, then on six plates place a bushel of this red mixture.Next to this, nustle your blob of crème fraîche as if the two ingredients were good friends, not on top of each other as if they were lovers. Finally a clump of the chervil rested next to the other ingredients in the friendly fashion. A very striking salad ready for the eater to mess up.

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