Frisee Aux Lardons
Great food shows up in the most unlikely places.
The first time I had this classic warm salad was at our Brussels office. I was there on business for a few days and our hosts graciously served us lunch at the officer’s dining room. The waitstaff placed a large platter of very pale lacy leaves in the middle of the table. Aside from being studded with chunks of crispy bacon, it was topped by perfectly poached eggs just waiting to be mashed by a fork so that their runny yolks could coat the greens. After the first bite, I was so impressed that I asked our hostess what it was called. Frisee aux lardons I was told. That was over ten years ago. I don’t remember the rest of the meal, but I did marvel at how their corporate dining room could give most French restaurants in NYC a run for their money. Lucky Belgians.
Frisee is not readily available in my supermarket, so when I see it, I buy it. Apparently, it is not the easiest thing to grow. Like Belgian endive and white asparagus, a good portion of the vegetable must be kept away from light in order to retain its white color. For this reason, the heads of frisees are tied up tightly while growing.
As for lardons, I prefer to use a thick slice from a slab of bacon than the thin-sliced pre-packaged ones from the supermarket. I have access to a slab of guanciale (cured pork jowl) so I go with that instead. I cut them into 1/2 inch chunks and fry them in their own fat until they are slightly crunchy on the outside but still chewy within. I also use the rendered bacon fat to saute the shallots for the vinaigrette. Since it’s only a dash or two, I splurge a little bit and use a good white wine vinegar.
By contrast, I don’t find it necessary to use an expensive vinegar for poaching the egg; the generic white one sold at most wholesale clubs will do. Yes, the same one that you can use to clean glass.
1 head of frisee
3/8″ thick slice from a slab of bacon
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 c generic white vinegar for poaching the egg
few dashes of white wine vinegar for the vinaigrette
fresh tarragon, minced (optional)
- Wash the frisee thoroughly. Rinse, spin dry then tear into bite size pieces.
- Poach the egg:
– Add 1/4 c generic white vinegar to 4 c water and bring to a boil.
– Break the egg into a ramekin or other shallow dish.
– Stir the poaching liquid with a wooden spoon and slide the whole egg in.
– Lower the heat to a gentle boil and swirl the water around the egg so that the white gathers around the yolk.
– Cook for three minutes, then lift the egg out with a slotted spoon. The yolk should be completely encased by the white.
- Cut the bacon into 1/2″ long chunks. Render these in oil until slightly crispy then remove these pieces from the heat.
- Add the shallots into the rendered bacon fat and cook till soft. Whisk in the white wine vinegar along with salt, pepper and tarragon. Taste the vinaigrette. If it is too acidic, add some honey to correct it. If it needs more oil, add some olive oil.
- Drizzle the warm vinaigrette on the frisee and toss in the lardons. Place the poached egg on top.
- When serving, cut through the poached egg and let the yolk ooze onto the rest of the salad. Mix well. Enjoy.