Come autumn, salad rarely graces my table. I tend to focus on roasting vegetables once cold begins to nip the air. I will admit this is partly because I lack imagination in terms of the endless possibilities in putting together a melange of vegetables. In my studies of French food, however, I have discovered that one can tell the season simply by looking at the vegetables on one’s plate. And so it should be. Sautéed wild mushrooms, nuts, crumbles of Roquefort cheese are all elements that can be added to a salad for heft and take it beyond your average bowl of mixed greens.
My favorite in the pantheon of Great French Salads is the Frisée au Lard et À L’oeuf. Of course, it makes perfect sense that I would be so attracted to a cuisine that has come up with a way to put bacon and eggs in salad. Escarole or frisée are used for the greens but I prefer the latter. Where I live in Vancouver, it can be hard to come by, but I have found it available at Granville Island Market. Typically, it’s two to three dollars for one measly little bunch the size of your palm, but the last time I was there I found a package by Earthbound Farm Organic at a reasonable price. Rich egg yolk and bits of salty, smoked bacon are the perfect foil for the slightly bitter frisée . The egg should be lightly poached and burst at the touch of a fork to help dress the greens.
Frisée au Lard et À L’oeuf – Frisée with Lardons and Poached Egg
From Epicurious/Gourmet, February 1999
1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive)
6 ounces thick-cut bacon slices, preferably smoked
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1) Cut bacon into lardons (slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices). Tear frisée into bite-size pieces and put into a large bowl.
2) Cook bacon over moderate heat in a heavy skillet, stirring occasionally, until golden. Remove from heat. Have ready another skillet with 1-inch warm water. Half-fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a bare simmer.
3) Break each egg into a ramekin. Slide 1 egg into the simmering water and immediately push the white around the yolk with a slotted spoon, moving egg gently. The egg will become oval, with yolk completely covered by white. Add remaining 3 eggs in same manner. Simmer eggs about 1 1/2 minutes and immediately transfer to the skillet of warm water.
4) Reheat bacon in its skillet over moderate heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add red-wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.
5) Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season egg with salt and pepper and serve salad immediately.