I’m not a big fan of salads. I love vegetables and I even like them raw sometimes, but call it a salad and it rouses some negative associations and when scanning a menu, my eyes keep moving down the list. Put the words “Salade Lyonnaise” on a menu though and my eyes will jerk to a stop.
Eating a Salad Lyonnaise is like a fireworks display for your taste buds. The salt from the lardon, the sharp tang of the champagne vinegar, and the bitter bite of the frisée all dart at your taste receptors, showing off each ingredient’s strength. Meanwhile, the rich pork fat and egg yolk coat your tongue in a creamy shield that keeps any one taste from becoming overwhelming.
With this kind of thoughtful balance of contrasting tastes and textures, it’s no wonder that Lyon is widely considered the gastronomic capital of France (maybe even the world).
Although a head of frisée may look like Carrot Top on a bad hair day, it’s actually a variety of endive. Less bitter and leafier than a Belgian endive, it makes for a great salad green. Its hardy leaves help it retain it’s shape ever after pouring a warm dressing over it which makes it perfect for this salad.
Lardon is the French equivalent to bacon, made by salting pork belly. While you may not be able to find lardon in your local grocery store, you should be able to find pancetta, which makes a good substitute since neither are smoked. That said, if you can’t find either, bacon will do in a pinch.
Salade Lyonnaise often has croutons made of brioche but when I’m making a meal of this salad, I like having it with a whole croissant. Aside from being easier to find than brioche, you can use the croissant to make a sandwich with the salad and it’s perfect for sopping up the tasty dressing and egg yolk at the end.
Topped with a creamy poached egg, tangy champagne vinegar, and salty lardon, Salade Lyonnaise is a unique salad that uses frisée for a bitterness that brings all the flavors together. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto shares a flavor breakdown in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 8 ounces frisée (1-2 large heads)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces lardon or pancetta (bacon will do in a pinch)
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- black pepper to taste
- 4 poached eggs
- 4 croissants
- Tear the frisée into bite-sized pieces and soak it in cold water for at least 10 minutes. This crisps the frisée giving it more structure. Drain the frisée and run it through a salad spinner to dry thoroughly.
- Prepare 4 poached eggs. Cut the croissants in half and toast until browned and very crisp.
- Cut the lardon into thick batons and add to a frying pan along with the olive oil. Fry over medium heat until the lardon are nicely browned. Transfer the lardon to a plate, and then add the shallots to the pan.
- Fry the shallots until the just start turning brown and are very fragrant. Add the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt, and whisk the mixture together to create an emulsion. Add the parsley.
- Put the frisée into a bowl along with the lardon and pour the warm dressing over the salad. Toss to coat.
- To plate, put a croissant on the plate, cover with the salad, then top with a poached egg. Serve immediately with some fresh ground pepper.
Yield: 4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.