Yield: 2 servings as a main course, 4 as a side salad
This salad is a French classic and is shockingly light, considering it contains both bacon and eggs. The sharp vinaigrette and slightly bitter friseé cut through the richness of the bacon and poached eggs. I have to admit: those poached eggs gave me a fit! I was seriously doubting my cooking abilities, threw out two batches that didn’t working and had to surf YouTube to see what I was doing wrong. I finally got it right and my frustration was greatly rewarded. Lardons are small, thick strips of salt pork or fatback commonly used in French cooking; if you’re lucky enough to have access to these, use them! If not, thick-cut bacon can be substituted.
8 ounces friseé, core removed and torn into pieces
1-1/2 cups (2.5 ounces) country bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 pound lardons or approximately 6 slices of thick-cut bacon (about 300 grams), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large shallot (about 2/3 cup), finely minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Rinse the friseé under cold water several times and dry well. If you have a salad spinner, spin to remove as much water as possible and place in the refrigerator to keep crisp.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the bread cubes in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Ensure each crouton is coated by tossing with your hands. Bake, shaking the pan occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the lardons or bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Leaving the fat in the skillet, cook the shallot for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the red wine vinegar, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vinegar reduces and the dressing is slightly thickened. Off the heat, whisk in the Dijon mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat.
In a large, deep sauté pan or skillet, add approximately 6 cups of water and the white vinegar. Bring to a simmer over high heat; the water is ready when you start to see bubbles, but right before the water is at a full, rolling boil. The temperature will be between 190 to 195°. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, but DO NOT allow your water to come to a full boil. Working with one egg at a time, break into a small bowl. Using the back of a spoon, swirl the water to create a funnel and drop the egg into this spot. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Gently spoon the simmering water over the top of the egg to set the white. Cook the egg for 3 minutes, until the whites are opaque and firm, but the yolks are still soft. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift each egg out of the water and onto a towel or paper towels. Carefully blot the egg to remove the excess water.
Toss the friseé, croutons and warm dressing to lightly coat. Divide the greens among serving bowls and place a poached egg on top. If you’re making this for two main-course servings, add two eggs to each salad. Grind a little fresh black pepper over each serving. If you’re making this for two main-course servings, add two eggs to each salad.