There is a lot going on in this salad – in addition to the beets, bacon, and the egg it also has spiced pecans and croutons. It makes for a very satisfying salad with that breakfast for dinner vibe. It does have a lot of steps but some things like the croutons, beets, and nuts can be made a day or so ahead of time or made in larger quantities for use later in the week. I usually will roast and marinate all of the beets I have for the week, using part for the salad and some to snack on or use as a side over the next couple days, same thing goes for the spiced nuts.
If I don’t have a plan for what to do with the beets that I get each week usually I will just roast them like this and toss them with some vinaigrette and then eat them throughout the week with a little goat cheese or some greens. So this is a good go to beet preparation. After cleaning any dirt off your beets and removing the greens and tops, wrap each beet in tin foil individually, place them on a baking sheet, and roast them in the oven (350°) until they are tender. This means that when you poke them with a fork they should show little resistance.
When they are ready to come out, remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can hold them enough to take the foil off. Once the foil is off let them cool a little more until you are able to hold them easily. Using a kitchen towel (you don’t mind staining) or some paper towels rub the beets in the towels and the skin will slide right off. If you have little bits of skin that are reluctant to rub off then use a pairing knife to clean them up. Once the beets are cleaned of all their skin cut each beet into 8 little slices, or 6 depending on the size of the beet. Or you can slice them thinly on a mandolin creating round disks, both look nice, some people prefer a thin sliced beet.
When your beets are all cut and finished toss them with half of the vinaigrette (directions below) and 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme, then set them aside until it’s time to build the salad. The beets probably take almost an hour to cook, so start them first and while they are cooking you can do the croutons, the vinaigrette, and the bacon.
For the bacon just cut each slice into little pieces, about 1/4″ wide. Cook these pieces in a frying pan over medium-high heat and let them keep cooking until they are crispy and browned. Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon and place it on a paper towel to help absorb some of the oil. Put cooked bacon aside until ready to assemble salad.
For the vinaigrette, combine everything (mustard, honey, salt, pepper, onion, vinegar) but the oil into a medium sized bowl. For the onion use a microplane to get a very fine almost mushy bit of grated onion. Using a little whisk beat all of these ingredients together until they are well mixed. Now you need to slowly whisk the oil into this vinegar mix, making an emulsion.
If you stream the oil in slowly while whisking the mixture vigorously these two substances, that are in conflict with one another, will come together and form a homogenous vinaigrette.
As your vinaigrette sits, or if you have some left over and you use it over the next few days, it may start to separate. If it does just whisk it again and it should come back together with no problem. Use half of this vinaigrette to marinate the beets, and save the other half to toss with the salad, and for later use on other salads, or however you like. Use it with in a week or so.
For the spiced nuts combing the egg white with the salt and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl. Whisk this together until it is frothy then mix in the spices. Once the egg white and spices are mixed together add the whole pecans. Toss the nuts in the bowl until they are all evenly coated with the spice mix. Place a silicone liner on a baking sheet and spread the nuts out on this liner so they are not overlapping. Bake the nuts at 375° until they are fragrant and crisp when you taste them. This will probably take about 10 – 15 minutes. If you have any left over nuts keep them to snack on or add to a cheese platter for the next two weeks.
For the crouton I typically will use whatever bread I have handy, hot dog buns, french bread, Italian loaf it doesn’t matter much and if you can use something you have already do it. Cut the bread into largish cubes about 1/2″ and toss them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Space the bread cubes out on a baking sheet with parchment, and put them in a 350° oven until they are golden brown and crunchy. If you need to move them around a little while they are baking to brown them evenly then do that. They will probably only take 10 minutes, maybe 15. Keep an eye on them as bread can burn quick!
Once all of these steps are done bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a deep frying pan with steep edges, about 2″ deep, to poach the eggs. Add a splash of vinegar to the water, I usually use a white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, whatever is handy. Break each egg into its own little finger bowl or ramekin.
When the water is simmering steadily, but gently, slide each egg, one at a time, into the simmering water and let them cook.
When the eggs are ready to come out, the whites will have become opaque and began to tightened up around the yolk. Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg and test it to see if it is done. If you can still see some of the translucent egg white coating the top of the egg it needs more time. If the egg is opaque lightly touch the area where the yolk is and you should be able to tell that it is still very soft and liquid like. This is how your egg should be, if the yolk its firm to the touch and you can tell it has cooked through, start again with a new egg.
Eggs can be chilled in in a ice bath, held on a clean towel, then reheated in simmering water if you want to make them ahead. Otherwise assemble your salad quickly and top with your warm poached egg.
In a large bowl toss your greens with a couple tablespoons of the vinaigrette and a pinch of salt, then add the beets and bacon. The greens should be lightly dressed, and will become slightly more dressed from the beet juices. If individually plating (which I think looks best for this salad, because of the eggs) place a large handfull of the greens/beets/bacon onto each plate. Then top each plate with some nuts and croutons. Finish by placing a poached egg on the top of each salad, and then add a bit of cracked pepper and a little pinch of kosher salt, or a bit of fancy sea salt to the top of the egg.