I wanted for some time now to do a classic salad that you get at French Bistro’s in Lyon, France. It is a salad with curly curly leaves, a bit bitter but contrasted with lardons (thick strips of bacon) and topped with a poached egg. I grew up with a German style Hot bacon salad but I thought the French Flair that this salad had was something I wanted to try.
At the farm we grew this year some Mesclun salad varieties and one of them is curly endive. I was wondering what is the difference between curly endive and what the French call “frisee” ? Is what we grew frisee?
It turns out that Frisée is a different variety although in the same family. Frisée is lighter in color with yellow parts, and perhaps a bit more tender than our home grown curly endive.
We didn’t find any lack of flavor or tenderness using the curly endive from the garden.
So on with the recipe. This simple Curly Play uses onion instead of shallots but by all means use shallots if you want. and I use regular thick smoked bacon where in France it is usually not smoked.
Serves 2 large or 4 medium salads
1 head of curly endive
1 onion finely diced
4 slices of bacon cut in strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 eggs (make sure you have a few extra on hand in case of a blowout)
Take the endive off of the head and cut it into large bite size pieces
Wash really well and allow to dry on paper towels or spin in a salad spinner. At this point in time you should get a pot of water going for the poached egg.
Saute the onions in the olive oil until they are soft and translucent but don’t brown them.
In following the French Chef on the video below you don’t want crisp bacon but just cooked and slightly rendered. This texture I found really nice with the salad and the little bit of bacon fat nicely coated the greens.
Add the vinegar to the dressing, I like to use 1/2 cup. This deglazes the pan and rounds out the flavor profile of this simple dressing, the sweetness of the onions and bacon, the nice texture of the bacon and bacon fat and the tart flavor of the wine vinegar. Now you can add a little salt and pepper if you like.
The French Chef recommended that you add a bit of white vinegar to the boiling water and crack your egg into a small bowl before adding it to the water. You want the egg white to completely enclose the yolk in water. He claims this helps to do that. At least if you find a shell in their you can take it out instead of going right out of the shell into water can be risky.
Anyway I cook the eggs ahead of time and keep them on a plate.
With the dressing warm but the pan off, Toss the endive with the warm dressing till it is well coated, but not wilted.
Plate the greens then place the eggs back in the poaching water for 15 seconds just to reheat.
Close up of the Curly Play on a Salad Frisee
Here is the video of the French Chef making Salad Frisee like what you would find in a French Bistro.