23 November 2010

Poaching pods and a frisée salad

Generous friends are one of the pleasures of life. We have many, I think. This week, two friends brought us a beautiful salade frisée that they grew in their garden near Saint-Aignan. Organic of course, and perfectly fresh. The classic French salad called frisée aux lardons or salade lyonnaise is made with frisée greens.

What is salade frisée? It's a variety of chicory, and I remember buying it in supermarkets in the U.S. by that name years ago. It might also be called curly endive — as in Belgian endive, which is another variety of chicory. Both chicorée frisée and endives are slightly bitter greens and need to be dressed the right way to be really good.

Salade frisée tossed in garlic vinaigrette,
with goose-skin cracklings

The right way to dress them is with a good vinaigrette. That's a teaspoon each of Dijon mustard and wine vinegar, ample salt and pepper, and about three tablespoons of good oil, olive or otherwise. Because frisée is not a shrinking violet, another ingredient that goes well with it, in the vinaigrette, is garlic, whether pressed or finely chopped.

And because chicorée frisée can also be a fairly tough salad green, it benefits from being dressed ahead of time, 10 to 20 minutes before you serve it. The vinegar and salt in the dressing "cook" the salad greens and tenderize them. Make the vinaigrette in the bottom of the salad bowl, toss in the washed greens, and toss them well. Frisée, escarole, and dandelion greens like to be treated this way.

This is called a salade lyonnaise because its often served in
the bistrots of France's gastronomical capital city, Lyon.

Some French people use the verb fatiguer to mean "toss" when it comes to salad. On fatigue la salade — that's the same idea as "cooking" it in vinegar. The greens wilt slightly and are better to eat. Anyway, toss the salad and let it sit for a few minutes before adding other ingredients.

The other ingredients in a salade lyonnaise are smoked-pork lardons (cooked bacon or ham will work fine) and a poached egg. There are as many optional ingredients as there are cooks. Many will say that toasted croutons are essential. Some add toasted walnuts, spring onions, or sun-dried tomatoes. Instead of bacon or lardons, you can make the salad with cracklings made from sauteed pork rind or, better, duck or goose skin.

To go with our salade frisée, I remembered that I had some pieces of goose skin in the freezer. I kept them the last time we roasted a goose, with the intention of making cracklings out of them one day. That day came yesterday. Just cut the skin into strips and sautee them in duck or goose fat until they're crispy.

When you break the yolk of the poached egg,
it blends with the garlicky salad dressing.

As I said, toss the greens in the dressing and let them "cook" for a few minutes. Just before you plan to serve the salad, add in the lardons, bacon, or cracklings — and the croutons if you want them — and toss the salad again. You especially don't want the dressing to be all soaked up by the bread. I won't be if you toss the greens first. Or if you just have bread alongside rather than in the salad.

And that poached egg? Well, other friends (S & S of Days on the Claise) came back from a trip to Australia last year bearing gifts. They brought us four egg-poaching "pods" (PoachPods is the brand name). We've used them a time or two, but not often enough. Yesterday was a new occasion to test them out.

When you read about poaching pods, which are little silicone cups that will float on simmering water, the instructions say to oil the pod, put in a raw egg, and cover the pot so that the egg is cooked, basically, by steam. Water never touches the egg. Sometimes, however, it's not easy to get the cooked egg out of the pod, even if you've oiled it well.

Poaching eggs in submerged pods

We decided to try a different method. We submerged the pods in simmering water and then dropped the eggs into the water they contained. Break the eggs into a cup or glass first so that it's easier to pour them into the liquid without breaking the yolk. You can add a tablespoonful of vinegar to the poaching liquid to make the egg white hold together better. The pod also serves the purpose of keeping the whites together in the hot water.

In our experiment, once the eggs looked cooked, we lifted the pods out with a slotted spoon and set them in a colander. When we turned them over, the water drained off and the egg fell right out of the pod, with no broken yolks. Some white did stick to the pods, but it was easy to scoop out with a spoon. No need to throw it away.

Set the poached egg on top of a portion of the tossed lyonnaise salad on each plate. When you cut into the egg, the liquid yolk runs down and blends with the garlicky vinaigrette dressing. It's good. Bacon and eggs in a salad. You could do the same thing with soft-boiled eggs if you don't want to do the poaching part.


  1. Those poaching pods are neat.
    I love putting just sautéed chicken livers on my frisée salad. I like hot the heat kind of wilts this salad.

  2. yumm... nothing is as good as mustard vinaigrette on a salad :)


  3. Another lovely idea! It reminds me of my mother's wilted lettuce salad which had egg beaten into the hot dressing and bits of bacon, but no croutons. I love the endives. When I lived in Germany in the early 70s I ate a lot of Belgian endive because it was one of the cheapest lettuces, but here it is very expensive so I don't indulge much.

  4. Talking about poaching pods, I saw them the other day at Kitchen-Kitchen in Indian-Wells where I went to buy a Silpat mat. Even though I like gadgets, I think I'll stick to the old fashion way to make poached eggs. It works quite well for me when I want to have one or two with Meurette sauce à la Fontaine de Mars!

  5. "...I had some pieces of goose skin in the freezer."

    Would anyone else out there who has pieces of goose skin in the freezer please let us know. This is a totally unscientific poll. If anything this audience is skewed toward "yes" votes but I doubt that there will be any.

    I think that an inventory of the freezer and the pantry would be most enlightening and amusing.

  6. No goose skin or any other parts of a goose in my freezer; Bill I agree with you!!! Walt, please give us a suggestion about what you think is important to keep on hand in your pantry.

  7. I had a fantastic Salade Lyonnaise....in Lyon.

  8. LOL! Do realize how much work it would be for me to do an inventory of our freezer and pantry? If I were better organized, it would be easier.

    Right now I don't have any pig's feet or calf's feet on hand. I do have containers of frozen locally grown mustard, turnip, and spring collard greens. I have duck gizzards. Dried chick peas, black-eyed peas, giant lima beans, and French white beans (lingots) for cassoulet. And more zucchini and pattypan flesh in all forms (slices, grated, pureed) than you could imagine, along with pints and pints and pints of home-made tomato sauce.

  9. I'm glad to know about tossing the frisée salad ahead of time.

    I'm with CHM about poaching eggs the old fashioned way although I sometimes spray my flat potato masher (it's got just a few holes in it) with oil and use it to poach and retrieve my eggs.

    << I want to have one or two with Meurette sauce à la Fontaine de Mars!>>
    You chose well the night we ate together in Paris, CHM. I'm going to try eggs made this way someday.


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