Bacon, Poached Egg, and Curly Endive Star in this French Bistro Salad
Salade Frisée aux Lardons is made with curly endive, garnished with crisp bacon or salt pork, and topped (usually) with a poached egg. Though originally a country-style dish, it has long been a bistro specialty throughout much of France.
It’s not hard to see why. This is a simple dish filled with hearty flavors. Depending on portion size, it can work equally well as a starter or a main course. During the cold-weather months, I like this as a first course, followed by a stew or soup. During the spring and summer, when my taste turns to lighter fare, a largish serving of this salad makes a great dinner — especially if accompanied by some nice bread and a glass of wine.
If you’re already familiar with Salade Frisée aux Lardons, I don’t need to sell you on how great it is. But if this recipe is new to you, be forewarned: This may become your new favorite salad.
Recipe: Salade Frisée aux Lardons
You can serve this salad with either hot or cold dressing. For the cold version, you make an ordinary vinaigrette and toss it with the curly endive, then garnish the salad with bacon pieces, a poached egg, and croutons. For the hot version, you add the dressing ingredients to hot bacon fat and heat briefly, then add to the greens and toss (wilting them somewhat) before adding the croutons and poached egg. The hot version uses a procedure that is virtually identical to the one discussed in our post on Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing. In today’s post, we make the salad with cold dressing, but I’ll discuss the hot version in the Notes.
“Lardons” are strips or cubes of pork fat. If you can find unsliced bacon, that’s ideal — simply cut it into strips about ¼-inch wide and an inch long. Otherwise, just use regular bacon, preferably thick sliced.
Every supermarket stocks curly endive (frisée). The outer leaves tend to be dark green, while the inner leaves are more yellow. The inner leaves are more tender, so when buying frisée, make sure it has plenty of (yellowish) inner leaves.
This recipe takes about 15 minutes of active time to make, although you’ll want to wash, dry, and chill the curly endive for at least an hour before you begin.
This recipe serves 2 as a main course. The same recipe can serve 4 as a first-course salad, but in that case you’ll need to add a couple more poached eggs to the ingredient list. If you want a less hearty salad, skip the egg.
I recently posted about How to Poach Eggs. As the post explains, you can poach eggs ahead of time, then warm them in hot water right before serving. Because this method is so simple, I’m going to assume that’s what you’ll be doing. In the Notes, though, I’ll discuss alternative timing in case you want to poach the eggs as you make the salad.
- 1 large or 2 smallish heads of curly endive (½ pound or so)
- 4 pieces of bacon, preferably thick-cut
- 1 garlic clove (optional; may substitute shallot — see Notes)
- 2 - 3 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard (to taste, but you might find yourself craving a bit more mustard than you anticipate)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or other good-quality vinegar)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 Poached Eggs (prepared ahead of time as described above)
- a good handful of Homemade Croutons for garnish (or substitute store bought)
- At least an hour before you want to serve the salad, tear the curly endive into small pieces. Wash and dry, then chill in the refrigerator.
- When you want to prepare the salad, start by half-filling a small saucepan or skillet with water, and placing it on the stove to heat (this is for warming the poached eggs). You want to bring the water just to a simmer.
- Cut bacon into ½-inch pieces, place in a cold frying pan, and heat on medium on the stovetop. Cook until nicely crisp, then remove from heat. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Peel the garlic clove and mince finely. Place in a small bowl or jar that has a cover. Add the mustard, red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Cover the bowl and shake to emulsify the salad dressing. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
- When the water is at a simmer and the bacon is crisp, place the salad greens in a large bowl and add about half the vinaigrette dressing. Toss, and add more vinaigrette if necessary (I generally use most of it, but not always). Plate the salad greens.
- Slide the cold, previously poached eggs into the simmering water to warm for 1 minute (set the timer so you don’t forget them).
- While the eggs are warming, sprinkle the bacon and croutons on the salad greens. When the poached eggs have warmed for 1 minute, remove them with a slotted spoon, drain briefly on a paper towel (or kitchen towel) and top each salad with an egg. Serve.
- I like the bite of garlic in this dish, but if you want something more subtle, substitute shallot — say 2 teaspoons, minced finely.
- If you want to serve a hot dressing with this salad, here’s how: Mix up the vinaigrette as usual. Cook the bacon as directed in Step 3, but don’t remove from the pan — just set it aside. When you’re ready to serve the salad, reheat the pan with the bacon and add the vinaigrette. Heat until it begins to simmer, then scrape the vinaigrette and bacon pieces into the salad greens (Step 5) and toss. Some people also like to add the croutons to the bacon pan when they’re heating the dressing.
- Alternatively, you could just add the mustard, vinegar, oil, and garlic to the hot bacon fat and whisk to form an emulsion as the ingredients heat. Make sure you taste to adjust seasoning (but be careful — the fat will be hot).
- Adding mustard to the vinaigrette helps form an emulsion, in addition to providing great flavor. In fact, it’s the mustard that allows you to make the dressing by shaking it up — oil and vinegar wouldn’t combine well otherwise.
- If you prefer, you can make the dressing the traditional way: Whisk the mustard and vinegar together, then whisk in the oil drop by drop.
- If you don’t want to poach the eggs ahead of time, just do it as you’re mixing the salad. Start the water in Step 2, then add the eggs to the barely simmering water 4 minutes before you’re ready to plate the salad (that’s how long they take to poach). Remove the poached eggs with a slotted spoon, drain for a few seconds on a towel, then add to the salad plates.
- Some people like to daub a bit of olive oil or salad dressing on the poached egg after they plate it, to give it a bit of a shine.
- Others like to add a few snips of chives or another herb for additional garnish. Not necessary, IMO, but you may disagree.
- I’ve seen main-course versions of this salad that use sausage in addition to the bacon and egg (maybe a quarter pound per person). If you go that route, I’d recommend using a flavorful smoked sausage like kielbasa — just sauté it until it’s warmed through and then add to the salad.
“I’m so glad that warm spring weather is finally here,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she took a bite of her Salade Frisée aux Lardons. “I love all the hearty cold-weather food we’ve been having, but it’s time to lighten up.”
“Agreed,” I said, forking my plate. “And we’ll be hitting salads heavily on the blog for a couple of weeks.”
“What’s on tap?” Mrs K R inquired as she broke into her poached egg.
“Well, we did one of them earlier this week: Caesar Salad. It’s a classic, and one of my favorites. You’ll just have to wait and see about the rest. But one of them will be using lots of mayonnaise, so we’ll have a post devoted to homemade mayo.”
“Sounds good,” said Mrs K R. “But I think we should really do more with curly endive. It’s great stuff!”
“You mean we should dive into endive?” I asked.
“A veggie pun! Just for that, you’ll be polishing the wine glasses this time.”
Good thing I didn’t lard on any bacon jokes — that would have really egged her on.
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