Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

An Awesome Way To Eat Frisée if You Hate Frisée (That's Also Great if You Love It!)

by 
Brooke Siem
March 17, 2021

You know frisée, that prickly, bitter chicory that ruins otherwise perfectly respectable salads? It’s always tucked into the middle, like even the chef is trying to hide it. But then, when you go in for a big forkful of tender greens, crunchy candied walnuts, and maybe a globule of goat cheese or some juicy chicken, a little of this spindly, rancorous frisée works its way into the mix and ruins the entire bite. 

Blech. I've always hated the stuff, ever since I worked on the line at Daniel Boulud's Bar Boulud in New York City. Frisée appeared on all sorts of plates, usually as a garnish plopped on top of boudin blanc sausage or nestled next to a slice of pâté grand-mère.

Let it be known that I don’t have any beef with frisée as a garnish. Not only is it a visual delight that adds a good bit of loft to any dish, it can easily be shoved off to the side of a plate and ignored.

But as the featured ingredient? Like in the classic French Salade Lyonnaise? Oh no. Oh no. Keep it far away from me, please and thank you.

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Of course, it was my job to make and taste this salad dozens of times per shift. Despite my war with frisée, diners loved the dish. But I groaned every time a ticket came through, because after I crisped the bacon lardons, glazed chicken livers with jus, and prepared a poached duck egg, I had to season the frisée with red wine vinegar and salt and give the whole thing a taste. Each time, I turned my nose up. If bacon and runny yolks can’t save a plate, nothing can. 

But in my middle age, I am working on living a life in which hatred towards anything, including lettuce, is not in my paradigm. So 12 years after working the line at Bar Boulud, I squared off with my culinary foe in my own kitchen in hopes of settling the vendetta. 

I began with the primary opposition: bitterness.

In order for me to come to terms with the acrid nature of frisée, I needed to balance out the bitterness with other tastes. Acid softens the flavor of bitter foods, so I grabbed a bottle of apple cider vinegar. From there, I was inspired to take this dish in a more southern direction and treat the frisée, most unconventionally, like collard greens. I crisped up some smoked bacon and countered the bacon’s saltiness with sweet onions and a generous spoon of honey. After adding a pour of apple cider vinegar, I added a few heads of chopped frisée, covered the pot, and let the bitter lettuce quick-braise on the stove. 

 The result was a smoky, sweet side dish with a slurpable sauce that is begging to be served next to barbecue. It is a far cry from the Salade Lyonnaise of my past (and I’m sure my old French chefs would be horrified to learn how I bastardized the delicate green), but I am proud to say that with this quick-braised frisée with bacon and sweet onions, there is a little less hate in the world, at least from me.

With this dish, there is peace. Frisée and I have reached a truce. 

Quick Braised Frisée with Bacon & Sweet Onions

 | 
Total Cook Time: 20 minutes
 | 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

4 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium (190g) yellow onion, diced

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 tbs honey

4 cups frisée (a.k.a curly endive), roughly chopped

Salt to taste

 | 
Total Cook Time: 20 minutes
 | 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

4 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium (190g) yellow onion, diced

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 tbs honey

4 cups frisée (a.k.a curly endive), roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Ingredients

4 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium (190g) yellow onion, diced

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 tbs honey

4 cups frisée (a.k.a curly endive), roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Directions

1. In a large sauce pot over medium heat, render the bacon until it begins to brown, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Add the  diced onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 more minutes. 

3. Pour the apple cider vinegar and honey to deglaze the pan, and give it a good stir, being sure to scrape up the fond (brown bits).

4. Add the chopped frisée and a generous pinch of salt, then give everything a good stir. Let it cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the frisée is tender and wilted. 

5. Assess the amount of liquid in your pot. If you think there’s a bit too much liquid, crank up the heat and let the sauce reduce. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

About the Author

Brooke Siem

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