When I was an exchange student living in Lyon, France, I definitely didn’t have the budget or know-how to appreciate the city’s reputation as the gastronomic capital of France. Now, I’m trying to make up for lost time and experience!
As a result of its central and strategic geographical location, merchants and monarchs from the North (think butter and cream) and South (fresh vegetables and olive oil) brought their traditions and cooking styles to the city and created a rich and distinct Lyonnais cuisine, brimming with historical references. Even today, many of the dishes that are commonly served in Lyon are dishes that are throwbacks to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. For example, there is the Saucisson de Lyon, a marbled, fatty dry cured sausage that was really a food preservation backup plan. Or, Quenelles de brochet, oblong dumplings made with creamed fish, flour and egg binder (and topped with sauce, of course) which was a solution to working with overly-bony fish. However, my favourite dish name would have to go to the ridiculous Cervelle de Canut, which literally translated to “silk worker’s brains”, but is actually a delicious white cheese herbed dip.
One of the dishes that Lyon is most famous for is the Salade Lyonnaise, which is associated with the city’s bouchons, a special style of restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Today, you can find this warm entrée salad made with frisée lettuce, pork lardons and a poached egg, served throughout bistros in France. The salad gets an extra layer of pork flavour because the fat from the lardons (chunky, meaty bacon portions) is emulsified into the vinaigrette.
This salad always brings me back to that time in Lyon, and I definitely hope to return when I get the chance.
- 5 slices Ontario slab bacon, cut into short, ¼” wide-strips (pancetta also works)
- 1 head of frisée lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (also known as curly endive)
- 2 large eggs (farm fresh if possible)
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. Sherry or white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: a toasted baguette with a little bit of butter pairs well with this salad, especially to dip into the egg yolk.
- Bring a skillet to medium-high heat. When hot, add in the raw pieces of slab bacon and cook slowly until crisp, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate. Leave the remaining fat in the pan.
- At the same time, bring a small pot of water to a boil, and add the white vinegar. Reduce the heat to medium and swirl the water using a slotted spoon. Crack the eggs, one at a time into a small ramekin or bowl, and slide the eggs, one at a time, carefully into the water. Cook until the egg whites are set, or about 2-3 minutes. Remove carefully from the water with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add the minced shallots to the skillet and sauté in the pork fat until softened, or about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the shallots to a bowl and mix with the mustard, Sherry or white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle the olive oil (and any remaining pork fat from the pan if you so choose), until the vinaigrette is properly emulsified. Toss with the frisée lettuce and lardons, and divide equally onto two salad plates.
- Top each salad with a poached egg and add some cracked black pepper and salt to taste.