Monday, October 25, 2010

Friseé aux Lardons (and how to poach an egg)

Oh, pardon moi. This is a fancy French salad. Très fancy. The cooking class I recently attended at The Chopping Block simply called it "bistro salad with homemade croutons". But when I arrived at the class and saw the ingredients - hello, old friend! It's one of my favorite salads from a restaurant in New York that closed (Le Gamin). Frisée lettuce, lardons (bacon pieces), vinaigrette, and a poached egg on top. Peter reminded me that their version had some sort of blue cheese crumbles (I think Roquefort), but this version has croutons which I think I prefer. So I'm going to call it "frisée aux lardons" because when this salad and I first met, it was at Le Gamin and that's what they called it. Seriously...does it get any better than a salad with bacon and a poached egg?

That's one head of frisée lettuce. It doesn't look very big when it's tied up in a tight little bundle at the store, but one is plenty for two people. Breaking news. I have just learned, via the internet, that frisée is baby curly endive. And the recipe from cooking class calls for curly endive. So I think you would be ok using either.

Serves 6
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups French bread (about 1/2 baguette), day old, cubed into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place oil in a large mixing bowl. Add bread and toss thoroughly with oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place bread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. (It's ok if your bread isn't a day old, it's going to get just as crispy in the oven).

salad and dressing:
4 bacon slices, cut into lardons
1 shallot, finely chopped
2-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
1 head curly endive (or 2-3 heads frisée), cleaned and cut into big pieces
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Heat a grill pan or saute pan over medium heat with a little grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil. Add the frisée and wilt just a bit on all sides to soften the lettuce; it should only cook for about a minute total. Cut into smaller pieces.

Place bacon in a cold skillet and heat over medium heat until just crisp. Add shallots and gently sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar and scrape pan bottom to loosen the browned bacon bits. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more vinegar if necessary, or a little olive oil if it's too tart.

To poach the eggs: fill a large, shallow pan with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low to drop water to poaching temperature (barely simmering - almost no movement but steam rising). Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to water. Crack each egg into a small bowl and right before you pour it into the hot water, stir the water so it's gently swirling around the pan. Cook the egg until whites turn white and yolks just begin to cook, about 4-6 minutes. Yolks should still be soft. Keep the water gently moving throughout the cooking time. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon to drain excess water.

While the eggs are poaching toss frisée and croutons in a large bowl. Add the warm vinaigrette and toss thoroughly.

Taste and season further as needed. Portion servings into individual plates or bowls and serve immediately topped with an egg.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop the presses. Do you SEE that poached egg? I did that. Me. A big girl poached egg all by myself. Poaching an egg was what I was looking forward to the most in the class. I had tried before, and actually think I was doing it right but it just seemed wrong. In those pictures above, especially the first one, it looks like the whites are spreading all over the place. That's normal. I guess I expected it to look like a perfect poached egg while it was still in the water, but it really doesn't look like that until you take it out. One tip is to use the freshest possible eggs. Don't use eggs that have been in your fridge for a couple weeks, apparently the whites thin out too much.

I have to admit, I didn't give this salad 100%. I was making two other things at the same time, one of which was a first-time recipe. I forgot all about the croutons until it was way too late, and I should have grilled the frisée a little longer than I did, but all in all I was happy with the vinaigrette, the poached eggs, and the salad as a whole. I cut the recipe in half and it was just fine. It is a pretty easy salad though, everything can be done in advance (not way in advance, but before you cook the rest of your dinner) except mixing the dressing into the frisée and poaching the eggs.

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