I'm not always inclined to eat salads during the winter months, but occasionally it feels good to balance all of those rich and hearty cold weather foods with something bright and crisp. Salad Lyonnaise, also known as Bistro Salad, is perfect for satisfying my cravings for greens, but is also comforting enough to stand up to the cold Chicago winter.
One of the greatest things about this salad is that two of the main ingredients are bacon and eggs! What's not to love?! In the traditional recipe, frisée is tossed with a warm bacon vinaigrette and croutons, and topped with a poached egg. It's incredibly versatile in that you can eat this salad for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Bistro Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette and Homemade Croutons
Yield: 4 servings
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1/4 pound bacon, cut into lardons
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 to 3 bunches frisée, cut into bite-size pieces, washed and spun dry
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate but leave the bacon fat in the pan.
- Add the shallot to the pan and gently sauté until softened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, red wine vinegar and thyme leaves. Drizzle in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust with more oil or vinegar if needed.
- Prepare poaching liquid: Fill a large, heavy, shallow pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low to drop the water to poaching temperature (barely simmering-almost no movement but steam rising). Add the white vinegar to the water.
- Poach the eggs: Crack each egg into a small bowl and gently slide the egg into the poaching water. Cook until egg whites turn white and yolks just begin to cook, 4 to 6 minutes. Yolks should still be soft.
- While the eggs poach, toss the frisée, crispy bacon and Homemade Croutons (recipe follows) in a large bowl. Add just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and toss thoroughly. Portion the salad onto individual plates or bowls.
- Remove the eggs with a perforated spoon to drain excess water. Top each salad with a poached egg, and finish with a grinding of fresh pepper.
Because there are several excellent cooking techniques that go in to making this salad, let’s go through each one so you have all of the info needed to prepare this recipe.
When shopping for the ingredients, I honestly had a hard time finding the frisée I normally use, but don’t let this discourage you. I had a feeling it would be hard to come by, so I had a plan B in place. I chose to make this version with kale and baby spinach, which tuned out to be an awesome substitution. I bought a bunch of kale, tore it into small bite-size pieces, and gave it a whirl in my salad spinner to ensure it was free from any grit. As far as the spinach goes, I bought a bag of baby spinach to keep things easy. Just note that heartier greens are a must for this recipe. Delicate greens such as leaf lettuce and spring mix will not stand up to the warm bacon vinaigrette.
Preparing homemade croutons is quite simple, and tastes so much better than the store-bought variety. The cool thing about croutons is you can use any bread you like. Whatever you have tucked in the back of your freezer will do (as long as it doesn't have freezer burn). Just cut the bread into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake until lightly golden around the edges.
Yield: 3 cups
Active time: 5 minutes
Start to finish: 15 minutes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or garlic grapeseed oil
3 cups French bread (about 1/2 of a baguette), day old, cubed into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375°, and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
- Place the oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the bread and toss thoroughly with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Tip: Dried herbs or smoky paprika are excellent additions to this step!
- Place the bread on the prepared sheet tray, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
The warm bacon vinaigrette is very similar in technique to making any other type of vinaigrette; it's just made in your sauté pan instead of a bowl. You'll want to be sure to adjust the amount of olive oil and vinegar to your liking. Yes, you do use the bacon fat as a base for your vinaigrette, but since it’s a small amount, you still need to add some olive oil in order to bump it up. Be sure that you taste your vinaigrette after you add more oil, vinegar and salt. This way you'll end up with a deliciously balanced end product.
This is where most people get nervous, but poaching an egg can be easily mastered. It just takes watching a how-to video and some practice. Luckily eggs are not very expensive, which makes practicing very financially approachable.
The key to successfully poaching an egg is to add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the water. This ensures the white and the yolk do not separate during the cooking process. You also want to make sure your water is at poaching temperature, which is about 180º. This will cook the eggs gently, so they don't break apart.
To check if the eggs are ready, use a slotted spoon to gently lift the egg from the water. The white should be completely set, and the yolk, when gently pressed with your finger, should be soft. You can always slide the egg back into the water if it needs more time. Once you determine the eggs are done, use your slotted spoon to remove them, and allow any excess water to drip off. You're going to place the eggs right on top of the salad! Sprinkle with salt and pepper and you're done!
Other Add Ins
Traditionally, salad Lyonnaise doesn’t have any other ingredients, but don’t let that stop you from adding what you like. I wanted to bulk up the salad with an additional vegetable, so I blanched and shocked a couple handfuls of green beans. This means to boil the beans in a pot of salted water until crisp-yet-tender. You then transfer the vegetables to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. I have to say they were a really great addition to the dish not only because they were delicious but texturally pleasing, too.
Have I mentioned how delicious and hearty this salad is? Did I also mention as rustic as this salad is, it’s sure to impress your guests at your next dinner party? It seriously covers all the bases as far as flavor, texture and pure culinary enjoyment go.
If you’re as excited about this salad as I am, join us for our New Year's Eve French Steakhouse class so you can learn how to make this delicacy. We are also running our Parisian Pleasures in January which features an Endive and Watercress Salad along with Coq au Vin, Pomme Puree, Haricot Verts and Profiteroles. Tre magnifique!