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Our introduction to France was Lyon on a warm September day, when we took our inaugural TGV (pronounced TAY-JAY-VAY), or high speed train, from Paris to Lyon in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. Lyon is considered to be the capital of gastronomy, home to world-renowned chefs, such as Paul Bocuse, and so, what an introduction it was for us. Lyon is steeped in a history of trading food related ideas and techniques since the days of the Romans and spice and silk merchants, when many cultures came together to exert their influences.
Lyon and the surrounding region is the home to Charolais cattle, renowned for the quality of beef; to goat cheese; to incredible produce from the fertile valley of the Rhone River; and to game, fish and mushrooms. It is surrounded by wine-producing regions, and so you might sample a Cote-du Rhone, or a Beaujolais, or a wine from Burgundy or Savoy.
In other words, it is a food-lover’s paradise!
We made our way through Place Bellecour to Place des Terreaux, a square with a large fountain and a view of the Cathedrale Nizier.
This square was surrounded by boulangeries, bouchons (family-style restaurants), bistrots, patisseries, and fashionable clothing stores. After a visit to the Basilique Notre Dame, in the hills of Fourviere, very high above Lyon, we descended and strolled the historic center of Lyon, or Vieux Lyon. Here, we found Le Boeuf d’Argent, candlelit restaurant at 29 Rue de Boeuf, where it continues to operate today.
We ate in a sunny courtyard, surrounded by soft terra cotta-colored walls. We were surrounded by locals and enjoyed one of those leisurely four course lunches that spans a few hours and prepared us for a long walk through the Parc Tete d’Or, a more than 200 acre parc and jardin after lunch.
While we sampled mousseline de volaille, a delicate mousse of chicken liver with port reduction sauce; fish quenelle, a fish mousse served in a creamy veloute sauce; fromage blanc, or white creamy cheese served in a puddle of sweet cream. This was adventurous eating, but the dish that won us over and is a favorite at home is Salade Lyonnaise.
This salad is traditionally made with frisee or curly endive, plus other greens and herbs, croutons, batons of smoky bacon, called lardons, and a poached egg perched on top. The dressing is a classic, simple mustard vinaigrette. We did sample some variations in other parts of France that included some potatoes and green beans. This is an entrée salad in Lyon, a first course.
The oozing, creamy egg yolk, combined with the salty, smoky bacon and mustardy dressing is perfect, simple, rustic food to us. At home, it is a one dish lunch or dinner salad, an entrée in the way that Americans mean entrée. This reminder of Lyon and our first wondrous days in France that led to many others is a favorite summer brunch or dinner entrée with crusty baguette and a glass of wine–perhaps a Cote du Rhone, perhaps a Beaujolais. Here is my rendition of Salad in the style of Lyon.
Smarsexypaleo’s Salade Lyonnaise Rdcipe
When I make an entrée salad, I like to include enough vegetables that the salad is a well-balanced meal. So, in my version of this Lyonnaise classic, I added roasted potatoes, golden beets, and green beans.
First, make the vinaigrette.
will dress 4 salads
- Juice of 1 medium lemon
- 1/2 large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons mild Dijon mustard
- 8 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Place the lemon juice in a small bowl, and whisk in the mustard and shallot. Whisk in the olive oil until thick and creamy. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, dried, diced small
- 1 enormous golden beet, scrubbed, peeled and diced small
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Toss all but the green beans in the seasoned olive oil in a large bowl. Tumble the vegetables out onto a half sheet baking pan and bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. Add the green beans to the pan after 30 minutes and roast another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. The potatoes and beets should have some golden color and crisp bits. The green beans will be tender.
Place 4 thick strips of smoked bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces horizontally onto the baking sheet, and place 1/2 baguette, cut into large cubes alongside the bacon on the sheet. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes until the bacon is cooked to your liking and the croutons golden.
You can approximate the Lardons you eat in France by buying smoked slab bacon or by using thick slices of pancetta, because these can be cut into thick small rectangular pieces. Often, bacon is sliced too thinly for this purpose.
Composing the Salad
Approximately 1 pound of lettuce leaves will provide a large 9 inch dinner plate portion of salad for each of 4 persons. My local organic market had a delay in their produce delivery yesterday, and I was an early shopper, so, no frisee or curly endive! I opted for a mixture of baby kale, chard, and baby spinach. Season the greens with salt and pepper. Drizzle each plate of greens with some of the vinaigrette. Then, spoon roast vegetables onto each plate. Scatter the bacon bits and croutons on each plate.
I allowed 2 poached eggs per portion of salad. I followed Alton Brown’s method for poaching. I used a 12 inch deep skillet filled with 1 inch of water with added 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. I cracked two eggs into individual ramekins. Bring the water to a simmer. Pour the eggs in gently. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Set timer for 5 minutes and do not disturb. They will be perfectly soft-cooked.
Top each salad with poached eggs, and add additional vinaigrette.
Simple ingredients, simply prepared. The soft yolks are creamy; the mustard vinaigrette is creamy with a nice tanginess; the bacon is salty and smoky; the roasted vegetables with thyme are savory; and the croutons add crunch. We pulled out our photos of Lyon and the business card from Le Boeuf d’Argent and reminisced! When you visit Lyon, you will find the people warm and friendly. When you stroll Vieux Lyon, don’t miss the traboules, secret passageways with enclosed walkways and vaulted ceilings that link rues and courtyards.
We met two young women on our walk, who began speaking to us in fast-paced French that I could not keep up with, but determined were soliciting donations for Habitat Humanite, so we gladly obliged. They were informal and friendly, and reminded us of the women that we met on a Paris street who were protesting domestic violence. They were excited to learn that we were from America, and said, “We will see you in Washington, D.C. in spring!”
Travel with an open spirit, the expectation of joyful encounters, and a respectful understanding of some of the cultural traditions of the country or region that you are visiting. You will have many warm encounters in France!