When I first began traveling regularly to Paris from London (I know, lucky old me) my favourite lunch was salade frisee au lardon.
So delicious with its curly, slightly bitter greens, sharp vinaigrette dressing accented by tiny, crisp bacony bits and a beautifully poached egg tossed together in a large bowl, all for you. Plus, of course, chunks of baked that morning baguette on the side. Simple and perfect as, it seemed, almost everything you ate in even the most basic spot in France was then. Or perhaps that was youth.
Back in London, the challenge was to find curly endive (or chicory, the name bounces back and forth depending on where you are and often who you talk to). Even now, all those years later, not easy, although my local specialist grocer SMBS on Lordship Lane has it in season, but this weekend I risked it with a curly head of chicory/endive (or even maybe young escarole) from the Farmer’s Market in Pimlico – not really bitter, but good enough – and fresh duck eggs from a Norfolk friend who keeps both ducks and chickens in his lush country garden.
Salade frisee does not really need a recipe. It’s basically a green salad with extras, but Patricia Wells supplies a perfect aide-memoire in her ”Bistro Cooking” published in 1989. (My treasured and much used paperback copy is from 1993, however a useful 21st anniversary edition was published in 2010, available on Amazon.)
Wells’ “Salade Frisee aux Lardons aux Lyonnais” discovered in a favourite Paris bistro leaves out the poached eggs and adds sausage and croutons, making a heartier, more substantial dish. However in her introduction to the “Les Salades du Marche” (or Market Basket Salads) section she notes that “recipes are simply blueprints for cooking, so feel free to add and subtract ingredients according to appetite, whim and availability.” Perfect for the busy home cook.
So minus the sausages and croutons (“aux Lyonnais”) this is the added/subtracted blueprint I follow – more or less. You can make it your own.
ALL YOU NEED IS: for 4 greedy people
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
6 cups curly endive, washed, rinsed, torn into manageable pieces
12 slices of good smoked/unsmoked bacon, cooked until crisp, cut into bite sized pieces
4 lightly poached eggs
4 small-medium tomatoes, cut in 8 pieces each
Whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard and salt. Slowly add oil and whisk until blended.
Put salad greens in large, shallow platter. Scatter bacon bits and tomato pieces over the greens, gently slide the poached eggs on top and drizzle with dressing. Scatter chopped chives over all.