Salade Lyonnaise

It was many years ago when my wife and I arrived in Paris in the early evening. We checked into our hotel, and, since it was too late to make formal reservations, we went out to find whatever convenient bistro we could discover … one of those casual places filled with locals and, in the French tradition, several of their dogs.  I can’t remember whether it was just I who ordered the first Salade Lyonnaise I had ever seen on a table or a menu, or the both of us.  Whatever, it turned out to be both attractive, more than delicious, and, for its time, really distinctive.  Since those days, however, one encounters it in French bistros all over the world, so frequently, in fact, that it is often listed simply as a “Bistro Salad.”  Its contents are seemingly simple, perhaps deceptively so for a couple of them: the inner shoots of young and tender frisée, fried lardons of bacon, a vinaigrette of one’s choosing, and two poached eggs.

The reason that I call some of these ingredients “deceptively simple,” is that  you won’t easily find that young frisée, and those lardoons will require your obtaining an uncut slab of bacon.  When I mention something like “young” or “baby” frisée to the grocers in the Pomona valley, they not only don’t carry it, they haven’t even heard of it.  Yes, it can be found in a Whole Foods produce section, and sometimes at Bristol Farms in a plastic box, but that involves some travel time.  For me, the salad is good enough to merit the trip.  Note that the relatively rarity of young frisée is doubtless why some recipes will tell you that you can substitute any other bitter greens of your choice.  I would prefer not to.Frise

So … try the following for two persons:

Separate the leaves, and wash and dry the frisée, using mostly, but not exclusively, the yellow/white interior of the head.

Trim and cut some slab bacon into lardoons, about ½ inch square and fry them until the outsides are browned and crisp.  Drain the lardons and set them aside on a paper towel.  You will want something like eight lardons per serving.

Make a vinaigrette of salt, crushed garlic, sherry wine vinegar, a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, and olive oil, extra-virgin or pure.  I’ll say something further about vinaigrettes in a future blog.

In a small salad bowl, toss the frisée with the vinaigrette and bacon, and a generous handful of chopped chives, and arrange on two salad plates.

Now, poach four eggs until just lightly done (because you will want the yolks rich but runny(, and place two of them atop each of the frisée servings.  A light grind or two of fresh pepper and you’re done.

Each diner can now break the eggs so that those yolks run over the dressed frisée, both tempering and enriching the acidity of the vinaigrette.  Ah, bacon and eggs never tasted this good.



A Good Wine I Often Forget to Drink – Beaujolais

I belong to a small group of diners for whom I am regularly assigned to choose the wines appropriate to our meals.  To this end, I take the opportunity to introduce them to grapes and wines with which they might not be readily familiar.  Last night, I brought to the table some Beaujolais, a lovely French red wine whose virtues include an early drinkability, and lively fruit, along with gentle textures and, for those averse to tannins, a equally gentle disposition.  The distinctive grape of Beaujolais is Gamay, sometimes called Gamay Beaujolais.  Though it is grown elsewhere in the world, the excellence of its French disposition remains, thus far, unrivaled.  It’s distinctive character is produced by carbonic maceration, a fancy name for whole-grape fermentation, rather than fermentation achieved by first crushing the grapes.  This largely accounts for that gentle disposition that I noted above.

Each year, when the official date for releasing the previous year’s Beaujolais arrives, it has become fashionable to hold parties featuring the newest of the new vintage.  It’s called Beaujolais Nouveau, the closest thing to Kool-Aid you’re ever likely to encounter in a wine.  Once you pass it by (and you should pass it by), more serious wine awaits.  You can start by drinking, well, just plain Beaujolais.  Move it up a notch and try what is called Beaujolais Village.  The top of the line, however, comes from ten different communes that are allowed to add their names to the label, e.g. Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Chiroubles, Fleurie.

Although most Beaujolais is meant to be drunk young, it’s worth noting that some of these “named” wines can be aged productively.  I once drank an eight-year old Morgon that I could have sworn was a full-blown Burgundy.

Anyway, summer looms and the young and sprightly, always-ready-to-drink, goes-with-almost-anything, always affordable Beaujolais awaits.  If you’re consulting a restaurant’s wine list that is wise enough – let’s say generous enough – to include the low-profit Beaujolais among its offerings, jump at the chance.