The original salade lyonnaise started off as a way to hide what are euphemistically called "variety cuts" (snout o' cow, ear o' hog, that sort of thing) in a tangy dressing with some vegetables for camouflage. What salade lyonnaise is now is greens with vinaigrette, blocks of bacon, croûtons and tomatoes, and it's served in almost every restaurant in Lyon.
Traditionally, the greens are bitter or pungent (such as frisée, mâche or arugula) and the dressing is warmed to wilt the tough greenery. I like it better with more iron-y greens (I've even made it with dandelion shoots), and I've added fried potatoes to make it into more of a full meal, as they do Aux Relais Gascons in Montmartre.
1 large head romaine, butter or green leaf lettuce
12 small cherry tomatoes
1/2 lb. slab bacon
3 slices good bread, cut into croûtons
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, washed but unpeeled, and sliced at 1/8".
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar
1/4 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pure olive oil (i.e., not extra virgin)
1. Wash, tear by hand and spin dry the lettuce.
2. Cut the bacon into lardons (pieces 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch).
3. Bring a pot of water to a bare simmer and poach the lardons for five minutes.
4. Add a good shot of white vinegar and a heavy pinch of salt to the water.
5. Put olive oil and the garlic in a skillet and cook until the garlic starts to color.
6. Strain the garlic out of the oil and reserve both the crispy garlic and the oil.
7. Return the oil to the pan and fry the croûtons until they are brown on both sides. Remove to a paper towel.
8. Over medium-low heat, fry the poached lardons in the oil until crispy; remove to a paper towel.
9. Strain the oil again; discard the solids and reserve the oil.
10. Fry the potatoes in the oil (add new oil if required) until just barely colored on both sides; remove to a paper towel.
11. Make the dressing by putting the mustard, Champagne or white wine vinegar, shallot and tarragon in a cup with a tight-fitting lid.
12. Add salt and pepper, close tightly, and shake vigorously for one full minute.
13. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and any leftover strained oil from the frying, close tightly, and shake vigorously for one full minute.
14. Toss the lettuce with the dressing, then toss in the bacon, croûtons and toasted garlic.
15. Put the salad into two bowls, then ring with fried potato slices.
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16. Poach the eggs for just a minute or two, enough so the white is set but the inside, when poked very gently, is still molten.
17. Place one egg in the center of each salad bowl and serve immediately.
If you're looking for the technique for round poached eggs, you should use the freshest eggs you can get your hands on and then listen to the wisdom of chef Dee Nguyen of Laguna Hills' Break of Dawn: