One of the nicest things about French restaurants in America in recent years is that we have finally discovered the French alternative to fancy food: bistro food! Buildings that once housed “trattorias” in the 1980s started switching over to brasseries and bistros in the 1990s. One of the dishes leading the movement across the U.S. has been the great warm salad in which frilly, bitter frisée leaves get tossed with warm bits of bacon, their hot fat, vinegar, and a few other things to add interest. When I’ve had this dish in bistros in France, I’ve seen either croutons, or crispy potato cubes, or a poached egg on top as add-ons; here, of course, I’ve seen all of these things simultaneously. As well as raw purple onions! If you find a salad of all frisée leaves a little bitter for your taste, you may leave a little frisée out and blend in a few other lettuces to round out the 4 cups of greens called for below. I love this salad as a first course before a hearty bistro main course, or as a main course for a light lunch. To be really French about it: drink a tart red wine, like a young Beaujolais, and find out for yourself that wine and salad are not natural-born enemies.
Makes 2 first-course or luncheon servings
4 packed cups of frisée (and other lettuces, if desired)
1/2 cup olive oil (not the expensive stuff)
4 thick slices of smoky bacon
10 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2/3 cup home fries, crisp and warm
2/3 cup light, garlicky croutons
2/3 cup very thinly purple onion rings
1/3 cup flat parsley leaves
2 hot poached eggs
1. Thoroughly wash and spin-dry the frisée (and other lettuces, if using). Reserve.
2. Place the olive oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cut the bacon into lardons that are each about 2″ long, 1/3″ wide, 1/3″ thick. Cook until almost browned. Just before finishing, add the garlic. Sauté until the garlic just starts to turn gold, about 1 minute. Remove bacon and garlic, and reserve.
3. Spill 6 tablespoons of pan fat into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the white wine vinegar until a thick emulsion is formed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Place frisée in large mixing bowl. Add bacon and garlic. Add the home fries, croutons, purple onion rings and parsley leaves. Toss all with warm dressing (you may want to add the dressing in increments, making sure that you have just enough to suit your taste). Season to taste.
5. Divide salad between 2 dinner plates. Top each salad with a poached egg, seasoned with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.