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Frisée Salad with Bacon

The origin of this quintessential bistro salad is Lyons, widely regarded as the capital of French gastronomy. It combines frisée and Belgian endive, both members of the chicory family, and lardons, or bits of salt-cured bacon. Parisian cooks like to serve this salad in the winter, when beautiful, fresh heads of frisée and pale, crisp Belgian endives are in the markets. This is a modest salade aux lardons, comprised of only wilted greens, bits of bacon and a tart vinaigrette. A more elaborate version might include fresh herbs or young lettuces mixed with the chicory leaves, perhaps some croutons and a poached egg resting on top.

Serve with a basic bistro red wine made from Pinot Noir, such as Bourgogne Rouge, or a plump Alsatian white wine, such as Pinot Blanc.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small heads frisée, about 1 lb. total,
     cored and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 head white or red Belgian endive, cored
     and cut crosswise into strips 1⁄2 inch wide
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and cut crosswise
     into strips 1⁄2 inch wide
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 lb. French lardons or other cured,
     unsmoked bacon, such as pancetta, cut
     into 1⁄4-inch dice
  • 3 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar, or to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the frisée, endive, radicchio, shallots and chives. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Set aside.

Heat a heavy, nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil only if the bacon is particularly lean, and cook, stirring constantly, until the bacon is browned and has rendered much of its fat, about 2 minutes. Add half of each type of vinegar and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Immediately pour the hot bacon and vinegar over the greens and toss well. Add the remaining vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Paris, by Marlena Spieler (Oxmoor House, 2004).