This warm, hearty bistro classic appeals to the bacon-and-egg person in all of us. (Lardons, by the way, is French for “pieces of fried bacon.”) If I’m serving this salad to company, I serve it with the croutons as described below in the recipe because I think it’s important to encourage people to enjoy all of the components together. If Fiona and I are having the salad for dinner, however, I’ll just toast a couple of thick slices of good bread, which we use to break open the poached eggs and otherwise make a joyful mess of the plate. To make the timing of the salad easier, I’m suggesting that you hold the poached eggs in warm water, which will keep them warm without continuing to cook them, but you can ignore this step. You can also poach the eggs in advance, then put them in cold water and refrigerate them. Reheat them briefly in simmering water just before serving.
Yield: 4 servings
About three ½-inch-thick slices of good French or Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch squares to make croutons
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch sticks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon white or white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 heads of frisée (curly endive), outer leaves and tough core removed, remaining leaves separated and washed and dried well
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the croutons with the olive oil on a sided baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toast, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.
Cook the bacon in a skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Lift the bacon out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. Reserve the bacon fat and keep it warm.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, shallot, garlic, thyme, and red wine vinegar.
Bring about 2 quarts water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the white vinegar and lower the heat to a steady simmer. Break each egg into a small cup or ramekin. Fill a medium bowl with warm water and position it near the pot. Gently slide each egg into the saucepan of simmering water by bringing the small cup close to the water’s surface and letting the egg slide out. Adjust the heat to just under a boil. Cook the eggs until the whites are cooked and the yolks are just set, about 4 minutes. Lift the eggs out of the cooking water with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of warm water. The eggs will stay warm in this water for a few minutes but will not overcook.
Whisk the extra virgin olive oil and about 2 tablespoons of the warm bacon fat into the shallot-vinegar mixture until the fats are incorporated and an emulsion forms. Put the frisée and the croutons in a large bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. (You should have at least 2 tablespoons left over.) Divide the frisée and the croutons among four plates.
Lift the eggs out of the warm water with a slotted spoon, let them drain briefly, and trim off any straggly ends. Put an egg on top of the greens on each plate and sprinkle each salad with some bacon pieces and the parsley. Drizzle the remaining dressing over each salad and serve immediately.