Recipe: Chez Georges Salad Lyonnaise (aka Frisée Salad avec Lardons)
The plane was an hour late leaving Seattle, the crush of people pushing towards the gate, a giant amoeba that changed shape as their impatience waxed and then waned when they remembered they were going to one of the most magical places on earth.
Tucked in at 30,000 feet, I caught up on a year’s worth of movies, embarrassed by the tears that sprung from my eyes at the turn-key sentimental moments, taking solace that the tall man who slept next to me with his mouth ajar could most certainly not see anything through not only the eye mask he wore, but the shiny Oakley sunglasses that rested on top.
Arriving on a quiet Sunday morning, we were whisked through the city, as though sneaking back home, the familiar creeks and groans of the two-story circular staircase up to my flat announcing my return.
I was back.
Our first proper lunch in Paris was savored at Chez Georges an icon of the French culinary scene since 1964 and rumored to be an old favorite of the revered Julia Child. Tucked off a side street, and easy to miss with the only door covered in a lace curtain that looks like it also hasn’t moved since the 1960s, upon entering one is transported back in time.
Chez Georges Salad Lyonnaise is quintessential French cuisine at its finest; understated, high-quality, artistic, and utterly sensuous at every bite. A refreshingly crunchy, and yet slightly bitter frisèe succumbs to a warm mustard dressing that is tossed table side and whose scent is so powerful at first blush it nearly brings tears to your eyes. Nestled among the unapologetic greens are crunchy little bits of lardons (like pancetta), that have absorbed a bit of the dressing. Perched on top is a beautiful poached egg, that when pierced further dresses the salad with its rich, sumptuous yolk.
It is, simply put, perfection.
Determined to recreate this we headed to the well-known farmers market at Raspail and bought the fixings. A few tries later, and we were pretty dang close to the Chez Georges original. For those of you who don’t like meat, try substituting the lardons for a snappy crouton instead.
Chez Georges Salad Lyonnaise
- 1 head frisèe, light green leaves only, washed well, then soaked in water for 20 minutes, and spun dry
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 ounces lardons (pancetta cubes would also be fine, or thick cut bacon in 1/2″ pieces)
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (to taste)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large eggs poached (I’m terrible at this and have no helpful tips…fortunately these guys do.)
- Place frisèe in large bowl that you can use to serve table side.
- Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the lardons. Cook, stirring moderately, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove lardons and set on paper towels to allow excess oil to drain. Add shallots to skillet, reduce heat to medium, and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and mustard. Raise heat and simmer for 30 second. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly add remaining tablespoon oil, while whisking to create an emulsion.
- Pour warm dressing over the frisèe and toss vigorously. Sprinkle with lardons and lightly toss again. Divide frisèe evenly among 4 plates and top with poached egg and a generous grating of black pepper.
- Serve immediately.