The French refer to it as “Le Quatorze Juillet” and in the US the Fourteenth of July is known as Bastille Day which commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789.
The Bastille was a fortress-like prison used by the King and Queen to imprison those who challenged their authority and was viewed by many as a symbol of all that was wrong with the royalty. Finally, on July 14, 1789, a large number of French citizens gathered together and stormed the Bastille. Just as citizens of the United States celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence as the beginning of the American Revolution, so the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille as the beginning of the French Revolution. Two days after the storming of the Bastille, the King officially recognized the tricolor flag; the blue, white and red said to symbolize liberty, equality and brotherhood. Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France on Bastille Day and the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of July 14th on the Champs-Élysées.
On Bastille Day here in the US, I like to prepare a French-inspired meal that brings the Champs-Élysées to Chez Miskew! One dish we can never get enough of when we visit France is Frisée Aux Lardons, a salad that’s a mixture of frisée lettuce, bacon (aka lardons) and a poached egg with a perfectly oozy, runny center. Once the salty nuggets of bacon are browned, shallots, Sherry vinegar, olive oil and fines herbes are added to the fat in the pan to create a deliciously tangy, sinful concoction that is the perfect dressing for the hearty, bitter frisée. Once the salad is assembled, it is topped with a perfectly poached egg tiara and the result…sheer deliciousness! I love the recipe for Frisée Aux Lardons from The Balthazar Cookbook which is from one of my all-time favorite restaurants in New York City. This cookbook is a must for all Francophiles who enjoy bistro-inspired food.
Pair this decadent salad with a delightfully refreshing Sancerre like the Michele Redde Sancerre Les Tuilières and you are in for a real treat! This wine has a mouth watering acidity that stands up nicely to the richness of the bacon fat and complements the Sherry vinegar “tang” perfectly. One of our favorite Frisée Aux Lardons/Sancerre pairings was enjoyed in the beautiful lobby bar of Le Meurice hotel in Paris well after midnight after a full day of walking “The City of Lights.” We eased into the sumptuous leather chairs enjoyed our meal and planned our next trip back!
As for something sweet, I love these Honey Fleur de Lys cookies I discovered on Laura Calder’s show “French Food at Home.” They are extremely easy to make and the key is to bake the cookies until they are a rich brown color which makes them taste like the burnt sugar topping of a creme brulée just not as intensely sweet – ooh la la! I ordered a fleur de lys shaped cookie cutter from eBay and a few days later voilà – Bastille Day cookies!
I hope you enjoy these Bastille Day-inspired recipes and I’d love to hear what you think. Please let me know in the comment section below and I’d also love to know if you have any favorite French-inspired dining experience or recipes you enjoy so please do tell!
Joyeux Le Quatorze Juillet,
“Frisee Aux Lardons”
from The Balthazar Cookbook, Keith McNally, Riad Nasr & Lee Hanson
6 slices of stale brioche
4 heads of frisée, cored, rinsed, spun dry, and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 pound slab bacon (rind removed), cut into 1/2-inch lardons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons fine herbs (parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon finally chopped together)
6 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim the crusts from the bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place on a sheet tray and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through to toast evenly. Combine the croutons in a large bowl with the clean frisée.
Prepare the pan for poaching the eggs: Fill a wide-straight-sided saute pan with water (about two-third fulls) and add the tablespoon of vinegar. Over a medium-high flame, bring to a gentle simmer, and adjust the heat to maintain it.
In a dry skillet or saute pan over medium heat, brown the lardons well on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the minced shallots and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, to soften and lightly brown them. Without pouring off the fat, add the 1/2 cup of vinegar to the pan. Bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape any delicious bits that have caramelized on the surface of the pan. When the vinegar has reduced by half, about 3 minutes, turn off the flame. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir well to combine. Pour this warm vinaigrette with bacon into the bowl of frisée, along with the croutons and fine herbes. Toss well to combine. Divide the salad among 6 serving plates, piled into small heaps.
Crack the eggs, one at a time, into a small saucer and then slide them into the simmering water. Poach for 4 minutes, resulting in a set white and a cooked but runny yolk. With a slotted spoon, scoop out the poached eggs, one at a time, drain, and position on top of each pile of frisée. Sprinkle with crunchy sea salt (like Maldon) and a few turns of a peppermill. Serve immediately.