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The first time I discovered frisée in my supermarket I was a tiny bit confused and extremely curious. What was this frizzy-looking head of greens? Was it lettuce or something else? It was perched right between the escarole and endive and above the romaine and green leaf lettuces. It was insanely pretty to look at, in my opinion.
I bought a head of this unique lettuce and then went to work researching it. Frisée is actually in the chicory family, mostly related to endive. In fact, it often goes by the name of curly endive. Its leaves are long and skinny with curly or frizzled-looking ends.
Frisée tastes like a cross between endive and romaine hearts. It is a little bitter, but not as peppery as arugula. The leaves have a core that is crunchy or crisp. The curly ends of the leaves are a perfect vehicle for salad dressing that clings to them effortlessly. I love bitter greens and very crisp lettuces, so this unique vegetable hits all the marks for me. It is perfect for salad but not great for cooking with.
This is a sturdy green but really doesn’t last long once harvested. You need to use frisée as soon as you get it home. I buy a head of frisée, bring it home, and put it right in the crisper drawer of the fridge until ready to use. I don’t rinse it until a few minutes before making a salad, and I use all of it. Once washed, frisée will only stay fresh for about a day. Unwashed, it might keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. For such a gnarly and imposing-looking green, the humble frisée has a short and delicate lifespan.
There is a very classic frisée salad that has poached eggs, bacon vinaigrette, and croutons. It is fairly simple and quite good. The lettuce is the star. The warm bacon dressing is salty and sweet. The runny yolk of the egg drips onto the leaves. The croutons add a crunchy texture. It all works together.
I can almost hear some of you saying, “Oh no, not poached eggs”. Poached eggs used to freak me out too. I found an egg poaching pan at a dollar store that I used for years before I tried to freestyle it. OMG, it is so easy to poach an egg in simmering water without a gadget that took up precious space in my tiny kitchen. I will walk you through the process in the recipe instructions.
- 1 large head of frisée washed and drained
- ⅓ of a French baguette
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large shallot peeled and sliced thinly
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp honey
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 Large whole eggs at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp fresh chives sliced thinly
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and warm the olive oil. Slice the baguette into 1-inch cubes.
- Add the bread to the skillet and sauté until golden brown, stirring often, for approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croutons to a bowl.
- In the same pan, add the bacon and cook until almost crisp, approximately 4 minutes. Add the shallots to the pan with the bacon along with a healthy pinch of pepper. Cook until the shallots are just wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan 1/2 filled with water to a boil.
- While the water in the saucepan is coming to a boil, add the vinegar to the bacon and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the crispy bacon bits. Add the honey and mustard and stir again until well incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Tear the frisée with your hands into bite-size pieces and place the leaves into 2 serving bowls.
- Add the tablespoon of white vinegar to the pot of boiling water and reduce to a rolling simmer. Crack the eggs into 2 small bowls or ramekins. Make sure the yolks aren’t broken. Gently tilt each bowl to lower the eggs into the simmering water. Turn the heat off and cook the eggs for 3 minutes while you assemble the salads.
- Top the frisée with equal amounts of bacon dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Add the croutons to each bowl. Using a slotted spoon, drain each egg over a paper towel and gently place them on top of the salads. Sprinkle the chives over the warm eggs.
- Add the shallots to the pan with the bacon along with a healthy pinch of pepper. Cook until the shallots are just wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Serve the salads while the eggs are runny and a little warm.
Notes & Tips
- I mentioned that frisée is a bit delicate. You really want to use it as soon as possible after you bring it home. And, don’t wash it until soon before you will serve it.
- It is important to crack the eggs into small bowls or ramekins so they slide easily into the simmering water. If you just crack them into the water, they will be misshapen and may even break.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
- Frisée: It is hit or miss whether frisée is in season and will be available in your market. There aren’t too many other greens quite like frisée. My choices if it isn’t available are escarole, radicchio, green leaf lettuce, or curly kale. If using curly kale, I recommend massaging it with your hands after cutting it into bite-size pieces.
- Croutons: Making your own croutons is not mandatory. You can definitely use store-bought croutons to make life a little simpler.
- Bacon: I often prefer pancetta over bacon. It is cured pork belly, but it isn’t smoked like bacon. The flavor is milder, but it is clean and porky. If you don’t eat pork, there are many varieties of vegan bacon that crisp up nicely.
- Vinegar: My go-to vinegar is unfiltered apple cider vinegar because of its probiotic qualities. For this recipe, you can use ACV, champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar if you don’t keep red wine vinegar in your pantry. Freshly squeezed lemon juice also works well.
- Poached Eggs: If you really are intimidated by making poached eggs, you can use soft-boiled eggs or even hard-boiled in this recipe. Those are fairly easy to master.
- Chives: While I am not the biggest fan of tarragon, this herb is fairly classic on a good poached egg salad. I admit that I do enjoy tarragon with a runny egg, so try it instead of chives for a different flavor profile.