The French term lardons refers to small strips or squares of fat cut from the belly of a pig. They are often sautéed until crunchy and added to salads (such as this one) and other dishes, including stews, fried potatoes and omelettes. The same term is used for strips of pork fat that are inserted into leaner cuts of meat with a larding needle to increase tenderness and moisture. In the United States, slab bacon (rind removed), which comes from the side of the pig, is a good substitute for the pork fat. Salt pork, which comes from the belly of the pig, can also be used.
Salade Frisée aux Lardons
1 cup cubed coarse country bread (1-inch cubes)
1½ Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¾ lb thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 shallots, finely chopped
5 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 heads frisée, cored and leaves torn into 3-inch pieces
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast in the oven, turning once or twice, until golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 1 minute. Add the red wine vinegar, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Pour 6 cups water into a large, deep fry pan or wide saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt and the white wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a gentle simmer. Break 1 egg into a ramekin and slide it carefully into the simmering water. Working quickly, repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Carefully spoon the simmering water over the eggs until the whites are just opaque and firm and the yolks are still soft, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a plate and set aside.
In a large salad bowl, combine the croutons and the frisée. Pour the warm dressing with the bacon pieces over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Divide the salad among shallow individual bowls, making sure there is an equal amount of bacon in each serving. Place a poached egg on top of each salad and serve immediately.
Note: Poached eggs are not fully cooked. They run a risk of being infected with salmonella or other bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. This risk is of most concern to small children, older people, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you have health and safety concerns, do not consume undercooked eggs.