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Frisée aux Lardons: I'm in love!

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Ever since I first read about this I've been lusting to try it, but just contemplating the logistics of doing the full-classic version - the bacon, the vinaigrette, having the frisée still be sprightly by the time the eggs are poached - had me intimidated for the longest time. And then one evening I had a simple meal planned, some baked fish and a winter squash purée finished in a gratin pan; I also had two small heads of frisée from the farmer's market and some really nice slab bacon. So I thought about it, and all of a sudden it made perfect logistical sense. It went like this:

First I cut about two ounces of bacon into 1/2" dice, and made a vinaigrette with a Tbs. of wine vinegar, a small dollop of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and maybe a bit less than a half-cup of oil. Then I put the iron skillet on to heat, plus another pan with 2" or so of water and a dash of vinegar. While all of this got hot I tore up the frisée into two bowls and broke two (room-temperature!) eggs into two cups. I then tossed the bacon in the skillet until it was brown and crisp, and turned the other pan, now boiling, down to a gentle simmer. I poured the vinaigrette into the skillet, scraped it around a bit, then distributed all of this more or less equally over the two bowls of frisée. In the middle of this activity I put the eggs into the water to poach, and called Mrs. O to the table. In four minutes the eggs were perfect, and with a slotted server (mine is an elderly Kitch-A-Ma-Jig) I scooped an egg onto each salad, and added a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Mrs. O subsequently expressed liking for the dish and deep affection for me, and asked why the hell we'd never had this before.

Today at the farmer's market I bought two more heads of frisée...

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  1. fatback is closer to lardons than US bacon. If you get that, trim it into 1/4" pieces first, then have a ball...yum...to add extra flavour to things, boil first, then sieve it and add to roasted dishes

    1. Absolutely! This is not a difficult dish to do and I love it. I use a thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon for the lardons, and also throw a minced shallot into the bacon grease before putting in the vinaigrette. The hardest part is finding frisee, at least around here. I also like to have a slice or two of baguette spread with a bit of chevre or gorgonzola with this.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bhamdining

        Frisee is uncommon here, too, and quite pricey. But the closely-related chicory is cheap and ubiquitous. Examine the heads, looking for those that have the palest, frilliest interiors, which are barely distinguishable from frisee. I actually also like the tougher, dark green outer leaves as a salad green paired with a sweet dressing, or with a vinaigrette as long as there's dried fruit, candied nuts, or some other sweet element to balance the bitterness of the chicory. Of course it can also be braised like other winter greens.

        1. re: greygarious

          I've also used argula sometimes, and it's quite good.

      2. I adore this salad too! I often add chopped shallots to the vinegar and let that sit for a while (like while I prep the frisée), then make the vinaigrette. I prefer to dress the frisée in a large bowl and then distribute to the individual bowls. If I'm feeling fancy, I set the lardons aside and scatter them on the top. They stay crisper that way.

        I used to make myself crazy trying to get the timing all exact. But then I realized that the frisée is really quite sturdy and can easily be dressed and waiting while the eggs poach. Conversely, the eggs can be poached and then kept in warm water, wait for the salad to be ready. So I'm much more relaxed about the assembly now.

        1. Would you mind telling us what kind of vinegar you used?

          6 Replies
          1. re: WCchopper

            Just whatever red wine type I had handy - I think this was generic from Fresh & Easy, EV olive oil and mustard from Trader Joe's.

            Frisée can be iffy around here (SoCal) this time of year, too - Trader Joe's bagged stuff has disappeared. However, there are some hydroponic growers at the South Pasadena market that do have it reliably for $1.50/head.

            Another thing to consider is that other greens might do quite well too. I can see a mixture of escarole and young arugula, which I had in the year's most memorable lunch alongside an eggs-bennie variation of house-cured salmon on a crisp potato cake with perfectly poached eggs. Substitute the bacon for that side dish and you'd have a good salad dish.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Let me suggest that there is no such thing as a "perfectly poached egg" standard. How folks like their eggs is highly subjective. Your perfect eggs might be my "yuck! The egg white is still gummy!" At my favorite breakfast spot, I order eggs poached medium, and sometimes they get it right, but half the time they come with the egg whites less than solid.

              1. re: Sharuf

                that's up there with the many interpretations of what is considered a perfect steak and the terminology which is supposed to be standard:

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590050

                I like my eggs softer or slightly runny, husband likes his firm.

                1. re: Caralien

                  Okay, I like my poached eggs any damn way I can get them, short of hard and dry and cold. However, for this particular application, the egg is part of the salad dressing, like the coddled egg in the original Caesar salad. If someone for whom I was cooking it demanded a firm egg I'd accommodate him, but not without regret. In this case, the both white and yolk are opaque and set - like, it won't run through the slots in the spoon - but you aren't gonna need a knife.

            2. re: WCchopper

              I've used red wine vinegar sometimes, but prefer white wine or champagne vinegar because the red wine vinegar stains the shallots pink if I presoak them (which could be considered a feature, if you like the effect!).

              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                I like the idea of champagne vinegar - will give that a try.

            3. I really love this dish too - often make it for lunch on a Saturday after a visit to the farmer's market. I make a dressing that uses sherry vinegar, from the Balthazar cookbook. Early this fall, I added a fried green tomato as a base of the poached egg - a tasty twist.

              1. This sounds SO good and, after reading it a second time !, not too logistically difficult. Thanks. And thanks to all for greens alternatives. I'm going to try this - maybe today.

                1. The cafe I worked in back in 1979 (in the Beaujolais) made a salad they called Salade Beaujolaise that I adored, and still make once in a while for dinner. Your basic Frisee aux Lardons, with the following modifications:
                  Blanch salt pork lardons to remove some of the salt
                  Hard-boiled (well, actually, medium-boiled, some moisture in the yolk) eggs
                  Escarole rather than frisee about half the time (whichever is freshest looking)
                  Dry bread cut the same shape as the lardons (to be fried with the lardons)
                  Salad dressing very heavy with Dijon mustard (mustard, little red wine vinegar, little oil, some garlic) should be creamy looking
                  Smoked dried herring cut into pieces about the same size as the lardons. These can usually be found in the same section as the pickled herring in plastic pouches. Do not substitute pickled herring!
                  Proceed as Will did, fry the lardons in some oil (we used peanut oil, I have also used neutral olive oil) along with the bread. Toss the greens with the dressing, top with the herring and cubed egg, pour the lardons, bread, and cooking oil (this is why the dressing should be light on oil), toss again, eat for dinner with lots of french bread. Bon appetit!

                  1. After quite a search I finally found a really beautiful head of escarole and will use that. For lunch this would certainly be a complete meal, but could someone give some suggestions for dinner. I'm thinking something pretty plain? Thanks and looking forward to dinner and it's not even lunch time yet.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: c oliver

                      I served it to us and a guest last night with just a simple dish of pork and noodles, all of which we consumed while watching Top Chef. Delicious and appropriate...