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.
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.