Salade frisée aux lardons

Salad of curly endive with bacon

This classic bistro salad makes a wonderful first course for dinner parties and can also stand on its own as a lunch dish, followed by cheese and/or fruit and/or dessert. There are many variations on the basic salad of curly endive with bacon. Sometimes croutons are added, sometimes a poached or soft-boiled egg, and sometimes both.

Here I am providing a recipe for the salad as I generally serve it: with bacon and a lemon-garlic dressing. Another popular variant is with balsamic vinaigrette — this makes for a less tangy, richer salad. Sometimes the salad is served with the melted bacon fat incorporated into the sauce, but I find that’s a bit heavy. Up to you.

For best results, start with a slab of bacon that you will slice vertically into sticks (lardons). If that is not available where you live, then choose thick-cut bacon strips. You could attempt a vegetarian/vegan version by omitting the bacon, but it would not be the same animal — as lardons are so essential that they are part of the salad’s name.

The quantities below will serve four people generously.

1 head curly endive (salade frisée)
10 ounces (300 g) bacon
1 clove garlic, finely minced
6 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

A curly endive salad is huge — you will only need part of it for this recipe. Begin by cutting away the core. Pull out a handful of leaves and chop into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to your salad spinner. Continue until you have about four large handfuls of chopped leaves.

Wash the salad and spin it dry.

Cut the bacon into lardons (cubed sticks).

Now make the dressing. In the bottom of a large salad bowl, combine 6 tbsp. olive oil and the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with salt and grind on some black pepper. Stir to emulsify. Add the minced garlic and stir again. Taste and adjust as necessary.

Place the washed salad on top of the dressing. Set aside, or refrigerate if serving later.

Just before serving — i.e. when the guests are already seated at the table — heat 1 tsp. of olive oil to sizzling in a skillet. Add the bacon and sauté, stirring, until golden.

Spoon the hot bacon over the salad. Bring to the table. Toss. Prepare for applause.

Serves 4.

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