Steal this salad! Escarole, crispy prosciutto, 6-minute egg, shaved parm and lemon add up to a spectacular starter

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

You're bored with Caesar. Fed up with the wedge. Finished with chopped. But where, or where, is the simple yet stunning salad of your dreams?

If you don't have it, steal it.

That's what I did. 

The escarole salad I stole, back in December, at Sprezza.

The escarole salad I stole, back in December, at Sprezza.

One night back in December, Thierry and I were having dinner at Sprezza, chef Julian Barsotti's Roman restaurant in Dallas. Thierry first saw it on the menu: an escarole salad with egg and prosciutto. "We're having that," he said. He doesn't usually make such definitive pronouncements when I'm dining for work, but there it was. He had to have it. 

I would have ordered it any case (wouldn't you?).  It was pretty simple, just the bitter winter greens dressed in a lemony dressing, with crisped prosciutto, shaved Parmesan and a halved five-minute egg. (At least it looked like five minutes; it had one of those perfect, just-set, almost gelatinous bright golden yolks.)

Crisped prosciutto, just out of the oven

Crisped prosciutto, just out of the oven

The salad was as wonderful as it sounded and probably looks. The touch of lemon was exactly right with that salty ham. I knew it had to be mine. I would go home and recreate it. Steal it. For you. And for me.

With just one tweak: When I ate it, I wanted some of the egg in every bite, so I had to cut up that halved egg and toss it in a bit. I'd address that in my steal.

The first time I made the stolen salad, I was sort of stymied: couldn't find escarole at the two supermarkets I tried. With friends coming for dinner, I punted, and used Belgian endives. 

As I slid a baking sheet of prosciutto slices into to the oven, I thought about the dressing. Shouldn't be too hard to figure out. I'd keep it simple. Basically just lemon juice and good olive oil. Probably no added salt because of the salty prosciutto and the cheese. The bitter edge of the greens would be balanced by the richness of the egg.

I was getting hungry thinking about it, so nibbled on one of the prosciutto crisps. You can do that too: No one will know.

For the egg, I was a minute off. To achieve a perfect yolk, bring the eggs to a boil in cold water, remove the pan from heat, cover it and let the eggs sit in the hot water for six minutes. Drain and run cold water on the to stop the cooking. Perfect.

The salad came together beautifully, even with the endives. Frisée would work too. Or a combination of the two.

Next time I found escarole, and the salad was everything I hoped it would be; it was exactly the right starter for a pasta dinner with close friends. My pal Georges, a former chef who is even more critical than I, flipped for it. 

My new favorite winter salad is ideal for entertaining, as you can cook the eggs, crisp the prosciutto and wash and dry the escarole ahead of time. Just before you sit down, make the simple dressing, throw the greens in a bowl, add the eggs, toss it all together, then garnish with the prosciutto and shaved parm. 

Here's the recipe:

Who says crime doesn't pay?