When I was home for Christmas, my former piano teacher came to dinner and with him being a lover of French food, I wanted my mom and I to prepare a French meal. And with it being winter, it made perfect sense to make a cassoulet, a rich, slow cooked casserole that originated in the south of France. Along with the cassoulet and of course the ubiquitous baguette, we also made salade Lyonnaise, a traditional bacon and egg salad that originated in Lyon, a city in the Rhône-Alps region of France. The meal was fabulous but the reason for making this particular salad all had to due with a book.
I’m currently reading a travel/food memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah. I plan on writing a review on it in a separate post but in short, each chapter of the book is devoted to a specific dish from one of France’s regions/cities.
No one knows the true origins of the salade Lyonnaise, but this much is true: Bitter salad greens (traditionally traditionally frisée, though escarole, dandelion, and arugula all can be substituted), crisp bacon, barely cooked eggs and warm vinaigrette are the ingredients that you need to make a true salade Lyonnaise.
Poached (or coddled) eggs can be difficult to achieve but that is what makes an authentic salade Lyonnaise. Without them you just have a salad with bacon and croutons. My best piece of advice is to follow the directions on how to poach an egg to a T and do not try to rush/take shortcuts, etc. I only poached one egg but thankfully it was a success.
recipe courtesy of Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating
2 heads frisée lettuce, or, if in season, 2 bunches of dandelion leaves (I used arugala)
1/4 pound bacon
Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 slices rustic sourdough bread
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 eggs, at room temperature
Wash, sort, and dry the lettuce. If using dandelion greens, remove the hard stems and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Cut the bacon into lardons, or 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks. Prepare the vinaigrette. Lightly toast the bread and rub one side with a clove of garlic. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes for croutons.
To prepare the coddled eggs, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower the eggs gently into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, adding 30 seconds if your eggs are jumbo. Drain them immediately and run cold water into the pan to stop the cooking and to cool the eggs so you can handle them. Gently crack and peel the eggs, taking care not to tear the white-the yolk should still be runny. Rinse the peeled eggs to wash away any bits of shell.
In a frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the lardons until they start to crisp and most of their fat has rendered. Remove them from the pan. With the flat side of a chef’s knife, lightly crush the remaining clove of garlic. Add it to the remaining bacon fat in the pan with the bread, turning the cubes so that they are lightly toasted on all sides.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette. Scatter the croutons and bacon over the salad. Arrange the eggs on top and serve family style.
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons mild-tasting oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small, lidded jar, combine the vinegar, mustard, and oil; cover and shake to combine. Season to taste but don’t overdo it. Taste with a piece of lettuce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.