Salade Lyonnaise is a simple French salad made with frisée and lardons coated in a warm dressing made with an emulsion of the rendered pork fat, sherry vinegar and mustard. All this is topped with a soft poached egg. If it sounds simple, that's because it is, taking less than 15 minutes to put together.
Like most simple dishes, the difference between one that's merely good and one that is truly great, is the technique used to put the dish together. Over the years, I've tweaked the classic Salade Lyonnaise to suit my tastes and I think my mods take the dish to a whole new level.
To start, I like to use pancetta rather than bacon for my Salade Lyonnaise because the smoked aroma of bacon steamrolls over the delicate flavors of the frisée and sherry vinegar. I also don't let the lardons crisp completely because I want them to be juicy and meaty, not dry and chewy. When cooked perfectly they are ever so slightly crisp on the outside, with enough fat left in them so that each piece gushes salty porcine goodness with every bite.
As for the egg, you can check out my poached egg tutorial to make a beautifully runny poached egg, or you can use a slow cooked egg (which I've done for these photos). Although I normally recommend a temperature of 63.5 C for slow cooked eggs (for custardy yolks), I actually like them at 62 C for a Salade Lyonnaise so that the yolks take on a little body, but are still runny.
Lastly, maybe I'm just weird, but I'm not a huge fan of croutons. They're impossible to fork, and I feel like they get in the way more than than they add to a salad. That being said, all that delicious dressing and creamy yolk seemed like such a waste to leave smeared all over the plate; so I came up with the perfect solution. I serve my Salade Lyonnaise over a very well toasted slice of bread. That way, by the time you start growing bored of the salad, you're left with a still crusty piece of bread that's saturated with the sharp, meaty flavors of the dressing and the creamy yolk; at this point, you can pick it up with your hands and finish off the salad as an open-faced sandwich!
- Unless you picked your frisée from your yard, there's a good chance it's gone a little limp on the way to your store. If this is the case, just cut the leaves up into bite-size pieces and soak them in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Be sure to spin the frisée in a salad spinner or dry it with paper towels before using in the salad.
- Toast your bread.
- Add the olive oil and pancetta to a small frying pan and fry over medium heat until the pancetta has rendered out a good amount of fat and is starting to brown around the edges, but has not yet turned crisp. There should still be some fat on the lardons, and the meat should not be like jerky. Transfer the lardons to a plate and set aside.
- Add the shallots to the pan and fry until fragrant, but not browned (about 30 seconds). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sherry vinegar and mustard to emulsify the dressing.
- To plate the Salade Lyonnaise, put the toasted slices of bread on two plates. Layer the frisée into mounds, scattering some lardons between each layer.
- Drizzle some dressing over each salad and top with a poached egg and some freshly cracked black pepper.