GET YOUR LARDON ON: SALAD LYONNAISE

by Daughter Fish

I was going to wait to share this recipe, since I just wrote about Lyon, but frankly, the lettuce right now is just too good not to make this salad as soon as possible. If you like poached eggs and bacon—and at times beyond breakfast—this is the salad for you.

The first time I had a salad Lyonnaise was my first day living in Lyon. I ordered it in a café, because it was the only item I could read and say clearly off the menu.

I thought I was ordering a bunch of vegetables, so when the  waiter brought what looked like three pounds of lardons and a quivering poached egg atop a modest bed of bibb lettuce, I thought I was looking at my own awaiting heart attack. Hesitantly I cut into the egg, letting the yolk drizzle over the greens, and took a big bite. Heaven.

That’s a salad Lyonnaise up there, in case you were wondering. You may have seen something similar at a restaurant, but billed as a frissée salad and made with curly endive greens.

I only remember having salad Lyonnaise in Lyon with buttery bibb lettuce, and I prefer this style to those made with coarser endive. I like to use a mixture of bibb or red leaf, with arugula for spice, or dandelion greens for some bitterness. When it comes to salad, I say the more types of greens the better.

If you happen to be one of those people who are intimidated by poaching eggs, fear not. Use my cheat sheet below, or look here or here for more thorough guidance.

SALAD LYONNAISE

To make the croutons, it’s best to use a slightly stale or day-old  baguette so that  the croutons soak up the bacon fat (nope, this is not a low-fat meal!). I never have the foresight to buy bread a day ahead, so I usually use this trick: slice the baguette open lengthwise and toast it (either in a toaster oven or broiler) until it dries out a bit. You could also cut up the bread into crouton-sized piece and put it on a sheet pan in the oven (250°F or so) until it dries out.

Lardons are hard to find in the states (although you could cut up slab bacon, if you wanted). I use regular, good-quality bacon and have always liked the results. Traditional salad Lyonnaise is usually  served with wedges of tomato. In the Northeast the tomatoes are never very good when the lettuce is in season in the spring and early summer; for this reason, I usually like to add a few blanched green beans or asparagus to the salad. Look here for how to blanch.

Ingredients:

A mixture of fresh lettuces, such as bibb, red-leaf, and arugula (plan on  a total of about one small head of lettuce per person)

4 slices of bacon per person, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 egg per person

Day old/toasted baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (a handful for each serving)

Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette (see below)

Seasonally-appropriate additions:

½ beefsteak tomato per person, sliced into wedges

green beans, blanched

asparagus, blanched

1. Wash your lettuces and spin it in a salad spinner. Reserve for later. In a medium or large skillet, fry the bacon over medium-high. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to simmer for the eggs.

2. When the bacon turns crisp, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate. Drain off some of the bacon fat from the skillet  (leave about 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat per serving in the skillet). Fry the bread in the bacon fat at medium-high until the bread begins to brown and gains a crisp exterior. If there’s not enough fat in the pan, and the bread starts to burn,  reduce the heat and add a little olive oil to the skillet.

3. Poach the eggs using the instructions in the cheat sheet above. (I usually poach 2 to 3 eggs at a time in a medium sauce pan.)

4. Toss salad with vinaigrette. Place salad into each bowl, sprinkle each serving with a generous portion of bacon and croutons, and place a poached egg in the middle of each salad. If using, add tomatoes, green beans, or asparagus to one side of the salad. Drizzle dressing over the egg and side vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper and serve.

MAPLE-DIJON VINAIGRETTE

This recipe will dress two servings of salad; up the amounts if you’re making more salads.

½ cup olive oil

1/8  cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the oil, vinegar, mustard, and syrup in a mason jar or a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.