This rustic salad was one of my favorite starters when I lived in Paris. It is sheer simplicity to make: just brown some lardons slowly in a bit of oil (I like olive oil) until they have rendered their fat and are lightly crisp. While the lardons are browning, rub a salad bowl with garlic, then add frisée that has been cut up into bite-sized pieces. Salt and pepper lightly (remembering that the lardons will be salty). When the lardons are nicely browned, add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar to the pan, swirl around to mix well, and then pour the still-hot mixture over the frisée in the salad bowl. Mix well and serve on individual plates, topped with the lardons and a generous grinding of black pepper.
This is the simplest version of the dish—and the one you will find in the Larousse Gastronomique—is my personal favorite. (The rubbing of garlic is my personal touch.) But there are many other versions. Perhaps the most common variation is to add an egg—either poached or hard boiled and sliced in two, or even chopped up, on top of each serving. Some versions call for a bit of garlic or shallot to be sautéed along with the lardons. Other versions call for adding crème fraîche to the lardons instead of vinegar. And other versions call for dressing the frisée with vinaigrette and topping the salad with the lardons. And, finally, a few recipes I’ve seen call for topping with croutons or boiled potatoes as well as the lardons.