Each time I feel I need a reminder to explore the world with fresh eyes, I make Salade Lyonnaise. I would never have expected to associate a humble salad with the spirit of adventure and meeting new lovers and friends. But that’s the kind of magic that happens in my kitchen, even in Paris.
I traveled to Paris spring of my junior year to escape the unbearable shuffle of grad applications and escape into the halls of the Louvre for a quarter. What I didn’t expect half way through was to yearn for home. I decided to cook myself a meal in my shared apartment kitchen to feel less homesick. I had stumbled upon a recipe for Salade Lyonnaise, and immediately fell in love with the combination of the pungent vinaigrette, crispy bacon, bitter greens, and the soft yolk of the poached egg. I went from the market and to the kitchen, no expectations at hand other than a delicious meal.
Over the smell of sizzling bacon and shallots, your favorite art historian, however, had set the scene for her Parisian tryst. The fragrant aromas in the hallway brought my charming neighbor to the kitchen, and over shared wine, jokes, and food we began modeling the spirit of neighborly love. We went from brushing past each other in the cramped kitchen to brushing our hands down each others spines at night. When we washed dishes, it was inevitable we would have to help each other out of each other’s wet clothes. I can safely say, we weren’t just licking vinaigrettes off each other’s fingers that spring.
Now years later, whenever I make salade lyonnaise, I feel like I am renewing my resolution to myself: to reconsider the expectation of deadening routines and missed connections, and instead usher in curiosity and see the possibilities around me. So whether we make it together or by yourself, remember what MFK Fisher said, “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly”.
Recipe taken from the New York Times's Salade Lyonnaise as I never found David Lebowitz's
4 cups torn frisée or other strong-tasting greens, washed and dried
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1/2 pound good slab bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 shallot, chopped, or 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 to 4 tablespoons top-quality sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Put frisée or other greens in large salad bowl. Put olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When hot, add bacon and cook slowly until crisp all over, about 10 minutes. Add shallot or onion and cook until softened, a minute or two. Add vinegar and mustard to the skillet and bring just to a boil, stirring, then turn off heat.
Meanwhile, bring about an inch of salted water to a boil in a small, deep skillet, then lower heat to barely bubbling. One at a time, break eggs into a shallow bowl and slip them into the bubbling water. Cook eggs for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the white is set and the yolk has filmed over. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towel.
If necessary, gently reheat dressing, then pour over greens (they should wilt just a bit), toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each portion with an egg and serve immediately. (Each person gets to break the egg.)