Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad is a classic starter found in bistros all across France. Called Salade de Chêvre Chaud, it’s a fresh leaf salad with nuts and bacon, and crowned with pan-fried goat’s cheese medallions that are golden outside and oozing inside.
Simple to make, this most French of French salads makes for a chic change from the usual crumbled goats cheese number!
🇫🇷It’s French Bistro Week!!!🇫🇷
From time to time, I like to dedicate a week of recipes to a theme. This week, it’s French Bistro Week!!
Today’s Goat’s Cheese Salad is the starter in a classic three-course French bistro menu I’m sharing over the week. Here’s what’s on the menu!
Starter: Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad – Today’s recipe, a classic French Bistro starter.
Main: Duck Confit – An iconic French dish that’s so much easier to make than you think! It’s the ultimate make-ahead dinner party dish for showing off.
Dessert: Lemon Tart – A perfect finish to the meal that’s not too heavy, this is a tart you’ll find in virtually every patisserie across France.
If that menu doesn’t transport you to the streets of Paris, I don’t know what will….!! 🤷🏻♀️
French Goat’s Cheese Salad
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the French truly excel at taking basic dishes and pushing them to higher echelons of deliciousness with the addition of a few simple things. Often it involves more butter, more cream and more cheese! (Think: a pedestrian ham and cheese toastie + the French touch = Croque Monsieur).
For this salad, that sprinkle of French fairy dust involves some minerally, oozing goat’s cheese (yes!), bacon (double yes!), and not one but two types of nuts!
It’s not just the ingredients that make this salad special. The other half of the magic here is in the eating – the contrast between cooling, juicy salad vegetables and warm, molten-centred goat’s cheese is utterly scrumptious.
Like I said, you can depend on the French to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary!
The right cheese for French Goat’s Cheese Salad
If you know the French, you’ll know they are precise and uncompromising when it comes to specifying the right ingredients for the right dishes! It’s both part of their Gallic charm and much of what makes French food so good, to be fair. 😉
So, to do right by this classic French dish, let me start off by covering the cheese that is the star player in this salad’s lineup.
Traditional cheese for French Goat’s Cheese Salad
One of the most popular and traditional cheeses used for Salade de Chêvre Chaud is Crottin de Chavignol. This is an unpasteurised goat’s cheese produced in the the tiny village of Chavignol in the Loire Valley.
Crottin de Chavignol bears the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation, meaning it has been made according to strictly regulated criteria concerning origin and production. The AOC label is recognised worldwide as a mark of excellence and integrity amongst traditional French food and drink products.
If you cannot find this cheese – and unfortunately in Australia, it’s not possible to buy such unpasteurised cheeses – there are alternatives listed below. And no, they do not have to be AOC cheeses to be delicious!
Suitable cheeses for Warm Goats Cheese Salad
The best cheese to use is ripened goat’s cheese which has a rind and creamy centre that melts when heated. Ideally the cheese comes in small discs around 5 – 6cm / 2 – 2.3″ thick, or a log / barrel form that you can slice accordingly. The reason is you need rind encasing each slice (around the rim only, not the cut face) otherwise the cheese runs everywhere when you pan-fry it.
The following cheeses are all suitable and can be sourced within Australia:
Crottin des Deux-Sèvres – Similar to the aforementioned Crottin de Chavignol, according to the chef-owner of my wonderful local French deli Le Petit Marché in Sydney. This is the cheese I used.
Crottin de Champcol – The pasteurised version of the Crottin de Chavignol and can be found in Australia.
Picandou and Pico Affine (both pictured below) – Picandou is especially ideal because each round is the perfect size to pan fry as-is, without slicing in half. Also, since they’re fully encased with rind, they are easier to handle! Pico affine are a little large, so serve 1 per person. Available in Harris Farms, Sydney.
Chabichou du Poitou – Another cheese from the Loire Valley.
Le Chabichou d’Antan – Available at Le Petit Marché, Sydney.
Holy Goat La Luna – An Australian ripened goat’s cheese. Available at Harris Farms and elsewhere.
Other French ripened goat’s cheeses that could be used include Pélardon and Rocamadour. These may be tough to find in Australia.
“What if I can only get the spreadable kind of goats cheese?”
If you have soft, spreadable goat’s cheese, no problems! You can make French Goat’s Cheese Salad the “other” way: by smearing the goat’s cheese on to bread and broiling it (grilling) briefly! Goat’s cheese without a rind is called fresh goat’s cheese. Because it doesn’t have a rind, you can’t pan fry it because it will run everywhere.
Here’s what fresh goat’s cheese looks like – the more common one here in Australia:
This is what French Goat’s Cheese Salad looks like when served with goat’s cheese spread on toast and grilled (with lovely edible flowers from my garden!):
French Goat’s Cheese Salad – other ingredients
Here’s what you need for the rest of the salad plus the dressing:
Some notes on a few of the items:
Oak lettuce – This salad can made with all sorts of lettuce. Oak lettuce works particularly well because of the soft leaves, which have an elegant shape and sit nicely at the base of the bowl.
Lamb’s lettuce (aka mâche) would also work well. Alternatively use also cos / romaine lettuce (baby if possible), or even iceberg cut into bite size pieces.
If using oak lettuce, leave the lettuce in larger pieces that you then cut when eating. If cut into bite-size pieces the lettuce is so soft it will flatten under the weight of the other toppings;
Tomatoes – I prefer the look of tomatoes cut into wedges rather than rounds here, and it’s how they came when I had this dish in France (le monkey see, le monkey do!) But any type of tomatoes will work here – cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes etc;
Walnuts and pine nuts – Toasted nuts littered across the salad brings texture and another layer of taste that is part of what makes this salad so good! Don’t skip them, and don’t skip toasting (it brings out the flavour).
Non-nut substitutes: Sunflower seeds or pepitas; and
Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil – If you’ve ever wondered why even the simplest salads at restaurants can be so good, the answer is the quality of the vinegars and oils they use. It really makes a difference to elevate basic dressings. So use the best you can afford – we don’t use much in the salad dressing! (I reserve premium vinegars and oils just for dressings, and use more economical brands for general cooking.)
How to make French Goat’s Cheese Salad
The only thing to remember here is to pan-fry the cheese at the last minute. Because … well, oozing is the operative word!!
Toast pine nuts and walnuts: I do this in the oven on a tray, for ease. You can also toast in a frying pan;
Make dressing: Pouring into a jar and shaking it is the quickest and most effective way to emulsify a dressing;
Crumb the goat’s cheese: If you have the small goat’s cheese like I have (as pictured above), cut in half horizontally to make 2 rounds. If you have a log, then cut off slices about 2cm (3/4″) thick. Dredge in flour following by eggs, and then breadcrumbs. Set aside ready for cooking.;
Prep the salad: Assemble the salad bowls, ready to pop the hot cheese on top at the last minute.
This is one of those salads that is layered up in the bowl, as opposed to enthusiastically tossed. Place lettuce first, lay tomato wedges casually around, and then sprikle with nuts and bacon.
Leave the dressing until just before serving, else it will make the lettuce leaves soggy;
Pan-fry cheese: In butter of course, what else? This is after all a French salad! 😂 Pan-fry on both sides until golden brown and hot.
Tip: Use a non-stick pan. Cheese is like glue once it melts and then hardens on a pan!
Finish salad: Drizzle dressing over the salad using a spoon, and finally top with the hot cheese.
Serve immediately so you get maximum cheese oozing action!!
When and how to serve French Goat’s Cheese Salad
This is a salad you’ll see on the menu of bistros all across France as a starter or lunch option. Salads are common starters in France, popular with locals and tourists alike. When salads are this good and interesting, it’s hardly surprising really! A far cry from the glum, cucumber-lettuce-shredded-carrot “garden salads” we see back home, right? 😂
Here are my thoughts on serving options:
As a meal – The recipe as written serves 2 people and are lunch-sized meal portions. For people with a hearty appetite, I’d serve with some good quality, warm, buttered bread. Try this simple crusty Artisan bread or (if you really want to impress) homemade Brioche!
As a starter – Halve the recipe as written or use the given recipe to serve 4. As a starter, you only need a small plate of salad with a single piece of cheese each. (Feel free to still double the cheese, if thats how you want to roll! 😂)
As a side salad – It would be uncommon in France to serve this as a side salad because it’s fairly substantial with the cheese. OK, it wouldn’t be done, full stop. 😂 But there is nothing to stop you from doing so! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this would make the cut as one of my “Show Off Salads”. Regular readers know I have a few of these – like this one and this one and this one.
And it’s just the beginning….
This is the starter I’m offering as part of a three-course French bistro menu I’m sharing this week. I’m so excited about the main dish that I’ll be sharing on Wednesday! It’s one of the greatest, most iconic French dishes of all time!
Care to take a guess what it is?? *Drum roll …. *
Bon appetit! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Warm French Goat’s Cheese Salad (Salade de Chêvre Chaud)
Crumbed Goats Cheese Medallions:
- 2 x 60g / 2oz ripened goat's cheese , each round 5-6cm (2-2.2") wide, ideally AOC (Note 1)
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp flour , plain / all-purpose
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs regular kind, else sub panko; (Note 2)
- 30g / 2 tbsp butter , unsalted
- 2 tsp pine nuts
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 100g / 3.5oz bacon streaky; cut into 0.5 x 1.25cm (1/5 x 1/2") lardons
- 1/2 head of red oak or bibb lettuce (large) , washed, dried and leaves torn into 2 or 3 large pieces; (Note 3)
- 1 tomato large; cut into 8 wedges
- 1/2 tsp chives , finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp garlic , very finely minced
- 1 tbsp eschalot , finely diced (~ 1 tbsp); (Note 4)
- 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the best quality you can afford)
- 4 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the best quality you can afford)
- 1/8 tsp salt
Crumb goat's cheese:
- Slice cheese: Cut goat's cheese if necessary to create ~ 1.25cm (1/2") thick rounds.
- Place flour, whisked egg and breadcrumbs in 3 separate, small bowls.
- Crumb cheese: Coat cheese in flour, shake off excess. Dip in egg, allow excess to drip. Coat with breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. Place on plate and set aside.
- Toast nuts: Spread nuts in a layer on a tray. Toast in a 180C / 375F oven for around 5 minutes until they are lightly browned and smell toasty. Immediately transfer to a small bowl to cool. Alternatively, toast in a skillet over medium heat (walnuts will take longer than pine nuts, so best to do in separate batches).
- Cook bacon: Place bacon in a cold non-stick pan. Turn the stove to medium and let the pan warm up. Once the fat starts to melt, turn the heat to high. Stir and cook bacon until golden. Drain excess fat on paper towels.
- Dressing: Shake dressing ingredients in a jar.
- Begin assembling salad: Place lettuce in a bowl, casually arrange tomatoes, then sprinkle with nuts and bacon.
- Melt butter in a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
- Pan-fry cheese: Once butter is foaming, cook crumbed cheeses for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes on one side until golden. Carefully turn, cook other side for 1 minute until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Drizzle each salad with 2 tbsp of dressing. Arrange 2 crumbed cheeses on top of each salad. Sprinkle with chives.
- Serve immediately, while cheese is hot and melty inside!
- Crottin de Chavignol – an AOC* French goat’s cheese, an excellent quality cheese and a very traditional one to use in this salad. Made from unpasteurised goat’s milk so unfortunately not available in Australia (can’t be imported);
- Crottin des Deux-Sèvres – Though not an AOC* cheese, this French goat’s cheese is very similar to Crottin de Chavignol, according to the chef-owner of my wonderful local French deli Le Petit Marché in Sydney. This is the cheese I used and I can vouch for how good it is!
- Crottin de Champcol – The pasteurised version of the Crottin de Chavignol;
- Picandou and Pico Affine (both pictured in post) – Picandou is especially ideal because each round is the perfect size to pan fry as-is, without slicing in half. Also, since they’re fully encased with rind, they are easier to handle! Pico affine are a little large, so serve 1 per person. Available in Harris Farms, Sydney.
- Chabichou du Poitou – Another cheese from the Loire Valley.
- Le Chabichou d’Antan – Available at Le Petit Marché, Sydney.
- Holy Goat La Luna – An Australian ripened goat’s cheese. Available at some Harris Farms and elsewhere.
- Use small baguettes, cut into slices
- Lightly toast
- Smear with a generous amount of goat’s cheese
- Grill/broil until lightly browned and warmed through
- Place on salad
Life of Dozer
When I stole Dozer’s look – and he ain’t happy about it #VisionInBeige