Frisee au lardon is a very French salad of curly endive poached eggs and chunks of bacon. Due to the brunch-esque combination of soft, unctuous egg yolk and crispy/greasy bacon ends it is without a doubt the very best sort of salad to nom after a long weekend’s debauchery. The bitter endive gives it just the right herbal kick to wake up the taste buds (jeezus, it’s already noon!) while croutons give it crunch. Pairs damn well with mimosas too!
Now I’m not going to truck down to the Food ‘n Stuff just to pick up fancy French salad greens for my brunch when I’ve got a packed herb garden right outside my door. I’ve got two big planters full of Miner’s Lettuce that I picked up as seeds from the Sooke Harbour House last autumn. These are the real deal, not the Siberian Miner’s Lettuce that grows wild in the green belt – although those little leaves will work just as well.
Miner’s Lettuce has got a similar uber-green, bitter flavour to frisee, and is full of springtime anti-oxidants to cleanse my ruined after-party body ‘n soul. Plus they’re tiny and delicate enough to look really sexy as an appetizer-sized starter salad when company’s coming over.
Speaking of appetizer-sized, check out these cute little quail’s eggs!
I used to marvel at the way Hiro-san would pop these little guys open at the sushi bar with his knife, separate the yolk and lay it over tobiko nigiri. Now I’m playing with ‘em at home: fried and laid atop crostinis, poached and nestled among salads (like this one!) or over fettuccine aglio e olio.
The warm dressing incorporates a bit of the leftover bacon fat and tangy sherry vinegar and brings it all together with a touch of honey and Dijon mustard. The sweetness balances the bitter, back-of-the-throat kick of miner’s lettuce and the fattiness is just there because it’s awesome.
Miners Lettuce Au Lardon (Serves 2)
- 1 cup (70g) Sourdough Bread (cut into small cubes)
- 2 tsp. (10ml) Olive Oil
- Salt, Pepper and Sweet Paprika
- 4 oz. (115g) Slab Bacon (chopped)
- 2 Quail Eggs
- 3 cups (45g) Miners Lettuce and various Spring Herbs (Mizuna, Arugula, Tarragon, Fennel, etc. washed and thoroughly dried)
Method (Pre-heat oven to 190˚C – 375˚F)
- Toss the bread cubes in the oil and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Lay out cubes in a single even layer on a baking pan and pop ‘em into the oven for roughly ten minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Let cool before adding to salad.
- Fire up a pan over medium-high heat and sauté the bacon bits for 3-4 minutes or until they are crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan to a waiting bowl lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease. Pour off half of the remaining bacon fat but don’t get rid of the pan, it’ll be used in the dressing recipe below.
- Bring a small pot of water to a bare simmer over medium heat and add a splash of white vinegar (this helps the proteins in eggs coagulate, giving you a prettier poaching result). Take a sharp knife and run it along the top (pointier) third of the quail egg, remove the top and pour out the eggs into small individual bowls. Don’t try and crack these little guys like chicken eggs… It’s not pretty. Dip the small bowls half-into the pan and gently slide the eggs into the simmering water. Each egg poaches soft in about a minute, so don’t go anywhere! Once they’re solid but still jiggly they can be removed from the pan with a slotted spoon and drained on a paper towel.
- While you’re hanging around the stove you can toss your greens into bowls, arrange the croutons, bacon and quail eggs in a suitably pretty fashion and make your dressing:
- 1 Medium Shallot (43g, minced)
- 1 Tsp. (5ml) Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tsp. (5ml) Honey
- 3 tsp. (15ml) Sherry Vinegar
- ½ Cup Olive Oil
Take the pan with the leftover bacon fat in it and fire it over medium heat. Toss in the shallots and sauté ‘em for two minutes until translucent and bacon-y. Remove the pan from heat and add the Dijon, vinegar and honey, gently whisking to incorporate ‘em with all the shallot goodness. Add the oil in a slow stream while whisking to create an emulsified dressing. Pour the dressing over the salads while still warm.
Ok Ikumi – Outside