Warm goat cheese salad, or Salade de Chèvre Chaud, a French popular classic on many restaurant menus at any time of year. Made best at home using fresh, quality ingredients. Serve with a glass of chilled white or rosé wine and lively conversation.
My husband refuses to eat salad as a main dish. C’est comme ça. In Antoine’s book, if a main meal is served cold, it’s not dinner – even when the temperatures soar to a sweltering 37°C like it did this week in Paris.
The Corsicans have a reputation of being stubborn. As a just-as-stubborn Scot, in our 30 years together we always reach a compromise. For a salad, this delicious exception to his cold salad rule is a salade de chèvre chaud, since the goat’s cheese is melted under the grill.
When I first tasted this salad as a student in a Parisian brasserie, it was a far cry from the one I later learned to make in Provence. Alas, many brasseries use the horrid plastic-tasting, pasturised goat cheese which can be pretty nasty.
What’s the Best Cheese for a French Goat’s Cheese Salad?
The best goat cheese to use is Crottin de Chavignol. The French are normally so poetic but when it came to officially naming this cheese, they somehow lost their romantic charm: it literally means goat’s droppings. I’m swiftly passing this part by, as it couldn’t be further from the amazing flavour of this lait cru (raw milk) cheese.
As a student, Antoine introduced me to some of his friends in Provence. I hardly spoke a word, apart from Je m’appelle Jill with a pronounced Scottish accent. On top of that, their typical twangy southern accents had me even more bewildered: ‘du pain’ is pronounced ‘du paing’, ‘du vin’ is ‘du vaing’, and so on. Even when they swear it has a song to it.
As the men sat around – catching up on gossip on the terrasse – the girls took me under their wings in the kitchen. We didn’t need much to understand French between us: everything was self-explanatory as the most fresh and flavoursome produce lay in front of us on an ancient oak table in my mother-in-law’s Provençal kitchen.
There’s nothing to this salad and it’s not even a recipe, as it’s so easy!
Add a Bay Leaf and the Salad is Transformed
The most important lesson I learned from my French girlfriends was to put a simple bay leaf on top of each slice of crusty baguette which had been dribbled with olive oil before laying the slice of chèvre, walnuts, freshly chopped rosemary or thyme (or dried herbes de provence) on top. Then the whole lot dribbled over with a little more olive oil before toasting in the oven.
What’s the big deal with the bay leaf? Well, when you taste it this way you don’t want your salad any other way again.
Serve on top of your choice of green salad, topped with some fried lardons (bacon bits), more fresh herbs and plenty of chopped garlic (don’t forget to remove the core first, as it’s easier to digest) that have been pre-fried together. Toss the salad in a simple oil dressing.
Just remember to take out the bay leaf before eating: you’ll see just how it’s all beautifully fragranced. Ooh-là-là, summer, Provence, and serve with a glass of chilled rosé amongst friends.
Warm Goat's Cheese Salad (Salade de Chèvre Chaud)
- 1 baguette cut into small slices (3-4 per person)
- 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- firm goat's cheese Crottin de Chavignol (1 per person, one slice on each toast)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried herbes de provence or chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 handful walnuts
- 1 lettuce of your choice leaves washed and dried
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tbsp bacon bits (lardons) (optional)
- 3 tbsp olive oil* extra virgin (SEE NOTES)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Dribble a little olive oil on each baguette slice, add half a bay leaf then top with a slice of goat's cheese. Add a walnut and a little more olive oil on top and sprinkle on some herbes de provence.
- Place under a hot grill for up to 5 minutes, or just enough to melt the goat's cheese and toast the walnuts. Prepare the plates with the salad leaves.
- Meanwhile, gently fry the garlic and bacon bits/lardons (if using) for about 5 minutes in the rest of the olive oil.
- Make the simple oil dressing: whisk or shake together the oil* and vinegar in a jam jar with some fleur de sel salt and a few turns of the peppermill and pour over the salad leaves on each plate. Top with the garlic, bacon (or add some cooked asparagus spears) and the toasted goat's cheese slices.