If you’ve had one, is there anything better than a salade frisée aux lardons – the French bistro classic that’s a tangle of frisée lettuce tossed with bacon (lardons), shallots, and a tangy vinaigrette topped with a tender poached egg? …And is there anything worse than the all-too-common fate of a salade frisée aux lardons (in said bistros setting) that’s weighed down under too many (often undercooked) lardons, sludgy with too thick a dressing, and topped with a poached egg gone rubbery from too much cooking or too much time waiting on the counter to be served?

The latter scenario has happened to me too many times to count, so I’ve stopped ordering salade frisée aux lardons in restaurants, and started making them at home.

I like to think I’ve gotten the technique down so that this version is fuss-free and foolproof, even (and especially) if you can’t poach an egg.

See, I don’t poach the egg. I mollet it. Mollet eggs are cooked 6 to 7 minutes – somewhere between soft and hard-boiled. It’s got the same jiggly white and runny yolk as a poached egg, only without all the work. There are a few other ways I’ve rejiggered the recipe—like adding a little water to the dressing so that it coats the frisée leaves well—all in pursuit of ease and perfection. If you can’t find frisée as easily as I can in France, the salad is delicious with any other hearty salad green like endive, radicchio, or baby kale.

Salade frisée aux lardons

5 cups (1/2 lb./250 g.) frisée lettuce, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 to 2 Tbs. olive oil
3 oz./80 g. (1/2 cup) lardons, pancetta, or diced prosciutto (you can also use bacon, but pancetta and prosciutto come closest to lardon texture and flavor)
1 small shallot, finely minced
2 tsp. wine or cider vinegar
salt and pepper
2 eggs

PLACE the lettuce in a medium bowl so it’s ready to toss with the vinaigrette.

HEAT 1 Tbs. olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the lardons, pancetta or prosciutto, and sauté 5 minutes, or until the bits of meat have shrunken and rendered most of their fat. Increase the heat to medium, and cook until the pieces have crisped and begun to brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. Leave the grease in the skillet.

BRING a small saucepan of water to a boil. Gently lower the eggs into the water one by one, and boil 6 to 7 minutes.
MEANWHILE, combine the vinegar and 2 tsp. water in a small cup. Set aside.

ADD enough olive oil to the grease in the skillet to have 2 Tbs. Sauté the shallot in the oil-grease combination 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened but not browned. Remove the skillet from the heat, and add the water-vinegar mixture, swirling to cool and combine. Pour this warm dressing over the salad greens, and toss to combine. Season the salad with salt and pepper, then divide it between two plates.

REMOVE the cooked eggs from the heat, and immediately cool in cold water. Gently tap the eggs all over, and carefully remove the shells. Transfer the eggs to a small saucer. Slide one egg from the saucer onto each salad. Cut the eggs open with a knife, if desired, and serve the salad immediately.