The Classic French Bistro Salad That Deserves A Spot On Your Table

At times, salad may seem like a frivolous part of the table spread — the bread, along with a side of pasta or rice, and a meat entrée can make for a rather filling meal on their own. But for some, having that cold ensemble of leafy greens and other vegetables is the determining factor of whether or not a meal is truly complete.

Some salads play supporting roles, while others are always bound to be the main act. Cobb salad, with its rich array of hard-boiled eggs, salty bacon, cheese, and chicken breast, is often a whole meal in itself. Lighter salads, like the Italian chopped caprese salad, add a touch of freshness to your table with only cheese, tomatoes, and basil, topped with an unassuming dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. 

No matter what its ingredients are, it seems that any great salad includes some softer elements, along with crunch, acidity, and savoriness. With its contrasting textures and flavors, a salad can be made up of just about anything, however unconventional. When it comes to mastering the art of composing a good salad, the French can also show you how it's done — such is the case for their salade Lyonnaise.

Salade Lyonnaise is an explosion of rich and light flavors

According to MasterClass, salade Lyonnaise, or Lyonnaise salad, is made of frisée, which is a curly, slightly bitter lettuce. Foodal notes that you'd find frisée scantily added to baby lettuce mixes, but a salad composed entirely of frisée signals luxury. On top of this bed of unruly, peppery greens are fried lardons, which are thick slabs of cured bacon or pork belly sliced into matchsticks that retain "a meaty texture," per Butter N Thyme. Any thick-cut bacon or pancetta can be a great substitute if you don't have lardons on hand; just be sure they are cut into bite-size pieces. 

The star of the Lyonnaise salad is the poached egg, which sits right in the middle of the salad. Eggs, specifically hard-boiled, are no strangers to salad: You'll find them in a California salad or salade Niçoise, another French classic (via Food Network). However, the runny egg in the Lyonnaise elevates the ingredient to new heights, making a decadent egg yolk dressing. 

The egg yolk melds with the acidic vinaigrette, a combination that adds richness and tang. Once you take a bite, that's where the magic really happens — the bitter frisée and light dressing complement the heaviness that comes from the lardons and creamy egg yolk. 

In a way, Lyonnaise salad is like other salads we're accustomed to, but the frisée, fatty lardons, and poached egg make it more sophisticated. Lyonnaise salad can be enjoyed with a side of bread, or it can be an appetizer for a heavier entrée. If you're a fan of pairing warm ingredients with cold, fresh greens to create the perfect balance of flavor, this French bistro salad is a great place to start.