Lyon: Salade Lyonnaise, aka the best salad ever

Salade Lyonnaise, aka the best salad ever

Lyon is said to be the capital of French cuisine, perhaps of all cuisine. I have to say that I agree with this judgment. In the three weeks that I spent there last winter, I had so much interesting and unforgettable food, and always executed perfectly. I’m hoping to replicate a lot of it, and hopefully post it here: salad Lyonnaise (the best salad ever), salade St. Marcellin (the second best salad ever), parmentier, quenelles in lobster sauce, escargots. And then there are the foods that I’d like to never eat again, but I’m glad I tried: raw calves’ feet, frog legs, andouillette (sausage stuffed with intestine)… The father of the French nouvelle cuisine is Paul Bocuse. He is still based in Lyon, and you can’t escape his influence on the city. He has several restaurants in Lyon, and many students with restaurants in Lyon bearing his name or picture. We stayed away from the nouvelle cuisine, preferring instead the cuisine classique. We preferred the small, warm bouchons, as they are called, run by generations of the same family. However, we did venture to the big food market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Among lots of great cheeses, meats, and seafood restaurants, I saw these birds, still with their feathers on!

at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

After my first exposure to andouillette in a small restaurant there, we wandered south-west across the rivers Rhône and Saône, then rode the oldest functioning funicular up the hill Fourvière.

a view of La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière from the River Saône in Lyon, France
a view of La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière from the River Saône
a view of the River Saône from La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France
a view of the River Saône from La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France
la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
the ancient Roman amphitheater overlooking Lyon, France
the ancient Roman amphitheater overlooking the city

At every bouchon in Lyon you can get a salade Lyonnaise. But Les Voûtes de Saint-Georges was one of our favorite bouchons, and their salade Lyonnaise was the best in the city.  After the salade Lyonnaise, I had (over multiple dinners) foie gras crème brulée, filet mignon baked in foie gras, confit de canard wrapped in pastry, kangaroo steak, molten chocolate cake, and tarte tatin, but I only wanted more salad Lyonnaise. Theirs differs from the usual salad by addition of confit de canard, the swapping of brioche croutons for regular croutons, and the absence of a dressing. The juices from the meat, the butter coating the croutons, and the yolks from the eggs create just enough dressing themselves, so you want the eggs to be really runny. And you wouldn’t want to muddy the flavors of the fried lardons, the confit’d duck, and the buttered brioche. Salade Lyonnaise, aka the best salad ever Salade Lyonnaise, aka the best salad ever

Salade Lyonnaise

Servings: 2 Active time: 1/2 hour Total time: 1/2 hour

Ingredients
  1. 4 oz or 120 g frisée or another frilly salad
  2. 1 leg from a confit de canard, shredded
  3. 4 duck or chicken eggs
  4. 2 1/2 oz or 75 g lardons, unsmoked bacon, or pancetta, diced
  5. 2 cups brioche or challah, torn into bite sized pieces
  6. 2 tbsp salted butter
Method
  1. Let a medium or large nonstick pot full of water come to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the lardons as you would bacon – over high heat until brown, about 15 minutes. If the duck is cold, warm it in the pan with the lardons for the last 5 minutes or so.
  3.  Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, and toast the bread just until it starts to turn golden, about 5 minutes.
  4. When the water is simmering, poach the eggs. Make sure they are very runny, and err on the side of runny whites too. They will take about 2 minutes. If you don’t know how to poach an egg, do this: Make sure the pot you’re using is nonstick. When it’s simmering, take it off the heat, and crack an egg into the water from just above the surface of the water. Then immediately put the pot back on the heat taking care not to disturb the egg. (As the egg drops through the water, it will cook partially, and land on the bottom. I find that this partial cooking in calmer water leads to presentable eggs more often than the usual way. When you put the heat back on, since the pan is nonstick, the bubbles will easily push the egg off the bottom so that it will poach as usual.) After two minutes, the egg is done. Take it out, put it on a paper towel, and trim off the ugly and watery parts of the white.
  5. Arrange the duck, lardons, and croutons over the salad leaves, and place the eggs on top.

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