Before anyone even asks the question- no, we don’t grow our own frisee. And, frankly, we aren’t sure why. We could. Probably should. And Norcal has the climate to grow chicories like endive and frisee. A
very minor mystery, to be sure. But we do have pretty consistent supply from some local farmers, and we make a lot of home-cured bacon, so it figures that we make Frisee Aux Lardon pretty often around here. Or, if you prefer English American, we make frisee salad with bacon pieces (lardon), poached eggs and a vinaigrette. (We cheat and fry our eggs, but there is a reason for that- see below).
Simple stuff, and very good stuff, at that. But like many classic French recipes (and many of the great salads) the devil is in the details. The real key here is good ingredients; local greens just out of the ground, good bacon and very fresh eggs (the yolks are less likely to break). With so few ingredients there is really nowhere to hide. But there are some easy ways to improve your salads, regardless of the recipe.
With any salad there are two things you can do to make the most of the greens. Firstly, greens start to wilt the minute they leave the ground, so a quick soak in cold water for at least 15, preferably 30, minutes will do wonders (even with firmer greens like frisee). Secondly, after washing / soaking you must thoroughly dry those greens! You want to know why that good restaurant salad is so much better than yours? They really dry their greens. Multiple spins, laid out on paper towels or cloth, etc. Why bother? Dressing sticks to dry greens, spreads evenly and isn’t diluted by extra water (wet greens make for soggy salads…yuk).
So once you have your fresh, clean and dry greens, making the rest of the salad is easy. Cut bacon into thick matchsticks (lardons), cook the bacon and save the bacon fat. Now you have some decisions to make. You can use the bacon fat in the vinaigrette or use olive oil. You can also use a bit of shallot or garlic and use red wine or sherry vinegar. Maybe a bit of Dijon mustard. There are a million recipes saying they are “the” traditional recipe for Frisee Aux Lardon, and every one seems to have a slight variation on the dressing. We like using the bacon fat since we have it, a pinch of shallots, sherry vinegar and some Dijon mustard. But we suggest you experiment and make the dressing you like.
The one area where we do make a big change from the traditional recipe is with the eggs. We lightly cook our eggs over-easy, rather than poaching them. Why? Mostly because we have more bacon fat than we need for the dressing, so may as well cook the eggs in it. Also because poaching eggs in a new pot is a fuss when we already have a hot pan, with bacon fat, ready to go. But if you want to poach the eggs, go right ahead. Regardless of how you cook the eggs, you get a lovely salad with crisp bitter greens, salty, crispy and savory bacon, rich egg yolks, a bracing acidic dressing and maybe some toast or croutons to clean up. A very good dish, and an almost perfect lunch.
Notes Before You Start:
- Frisee is notoriously hard to eat and serving big pieces of frisee is a very easy way to embarrass a guest, or yourself (trust
usme on this one). Take the time to break the frisee into small pieces.
What You Get: A classic, tasty salad. A prefect lunch.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? About 30 minutes, if soaking your greens. Otherwise, about 15 minutes. Anytime dish.
(Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a lunch / side salad)
- 2 medium heads of frisee
- 4 thick slices of bacon
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil)
- 2 teaspoons sherry or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toasted country bread or croutons (optional)
- Break your frisee in to small pieces, the wash and soak the frisee in cold water for 15-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1/2 inch matchsticks (lardon) and then cook in a medium skillet at medium heat until the bacon is crisp and renders its fat, 6-8 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel.
- Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat (reserve the rest) and then add the shallots and cook until they just soften. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour the dressing into a small bowl and reserve.
- If frying your eggs, clean the skillet and put it back over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, place a few tablespoons of the bacon fat back in skillet and cook the eggs over-easy, or until the yolks are the consistency you prefer. (If poaching your eggs, we suggest you use a ladle or cups to gently place the eggs in the water to keep a better shape).
- To assemble the salad, first thoroughly dry the frisee. Then toss the frisee in the dressing and place it on plates. Place most of the bacon on the salad, then the eggs and a few pieces of bacon on top for garnish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with croutons or toasted bread, if you like.
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