When the plate arrived before me, the spidery frisée sitting crouched on the plate, the poached egg glistening and jiggly, and the indescribable smell of warm bacon vinaigrette wafting up toward me (warm and rich and touched with vinegar), I nearly fainted. He grinned as I moaned out at the sound of it. We put on the DVD of one of my favorite comedians in the world, and we started to sit back and relax.
And then I took my first bite.
It tasted like France, my first taste of freedom, walking down the Champs Elysées by myself. It tasted like childhood, with the sharp taste of smoked bacon. It tasted like comforting Sunday mornings, with the poached eggs. It tasted like a bite of vinegar, a crunch of pale lettuce, a richness of mustard, a depth of something I couldnt quite name. It tasted like love. It tasted like the life between us, and everything yet to come.
1 head frisée
2 slices of high-quality, smoked bacon
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Remove the core of the frisée lettuce. Wash the frisée thoroughly, then dry it entirely (with either a salad spinner or an absorbent towel). Let it stand on the counter while you complete the rest of the process.
2. Cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch pieces. Sauté them in the tablespoon of canola oil until the bacon pieces are crispy. Take the bacon pieces out of the bacon fat and set them aside. Save the reserved bacon fat for later use.
3. In the same skillet, with a skim of bacon fat at the bottom, add the finely chopped shallot. Saute the shallot pieces until they have absorbed the bacon fat and have turned translucent. Add the four teaspoons of red wine vinegar into the pan with the shallots. Whisk the mixture to loosen the goodness of the shallots at the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the Dijon mustard. Take the mixture off the heat, to ensure the mixture does not begin to reduce.
4. At this point, begin to poach both eggs. This should take about four minutes.
5. Pour four tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat into the skillet. (If you do not have four tablespoons, because the bacon you chose was lean, then make up the difference with canola oil.) After a few moments, whisk the mixture of shallots-vinegar-and-mustard into the heated bacon fat. Whisk vigorously until it as become a coherent mixture. Season with a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Lightly dip your finger into the vinaigrette to taste for seasoning. Adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste. (However, leave it a little less than perfectly salty. The bacon pieces will add more salt to the melange of tastes in your mouth.)
6. Heat the vinaigrette to a lovely warmth (one to two minutes). Add the washed frisée to the pan with the warm vinaigrette and toss it around until it begins to wilt. Add the reserved bacon pieces to the mix and toss it all with tongs. When the frisée is coated, and there is no more vinaigrette in the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat.
7. Arrange the frisée on two plates, then drizzle any leftover drops of vinaigrette over the top of both. Place a poached egg on top of both piles of frisée, with a pinch of salt and pepper on top. (If you want a special treat, set aside a few pieces of bacon earlier, then place them on top of the poached eggs.)
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