Choosing a mix of bitter greens — frisée and chicory — gave this classic French salad enough volume, structure and flavor to stand up to the richer elements of bacon and egg. To keep the flavor true to the French original, we called for pancetta rather than American bacon since it is unsmoked, salt cured and rolled just like ventreche (also known as French pancetta). Making a bold, warm vinaigrette in the skillet not only infused the salad with richer bacon flavor but also allowed us to gently tenderize the frisée. Poached eggs delivered both runny yolks and tender whites that easily melded into the salad, which was critical to the success of the dish.
Order a 1/2-inch-thick slice of pancetta at the deli counter; presliced or diced pancetta is likely to dry out or become tough. If you can’t find chicory or escarole, dandelion greens make a good substitute. If using escarole, strip away the first four or five outer leaves and reserve them for another use. Serve this salad with crusty bread as a light lunch or dinner.
One 1/2-inch-thick slice pancetta (about 5 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 head frisée (6 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces
5 ounces chicory or escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (5 cups)
1 recipe Perfect Poached Eggs
Cut pancetta crosswise into thirds, then cut each third crosswise into ¼-inch-wide pieces. Combine pancetta and 2 cups water in 10-inch nonstiskillet and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain. Return pancetta to now-empty skillet. Add oil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned but still chewy, 4-6 minutes.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, leaving pancetta in skillet. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 30 seconds. Off heat, add vinegar and mustard and stir to combine.
Drizzle vinaigrette over frisée in large bowl, toss thoroughly to coat. Add chicory, toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide salad among four plates. Gently place 1 egg on top of each salad, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves four.
Perfect Poached Eggs
4 large fresh eggs
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Table salt for poaching eggs
Bring 6 cups water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat.
Meanwhile, crack eggs, one at a time, into colander. Let stand until loose, watery whites drain away from eggs, 20-30 seconds. Gently transfer eggs to 2-cup liquid measuring cup.
Add vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water. Remove pot from heat. With lip of measuring cup just above surface of water, gently tip eggs into water, one at a time, leaving space between them.
Cover pot and let stand until whites closest to yolks are just set and opaque, about 3 minutes.
If after 3 minutes whites are not set, let stand in water, checking every 30 seconds, until whites are set.
Using slotted spoon, carefully lift and drain each egg over Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.