This is a classic French Salad you find in bistros all across France. It is an excellent light and clean salad to serve alongside rich foods like roasts, stews and dishes with creamy sauces, which is exactly the intended purpose in France!
Welcome to Day 13 of the inaugural Holiday Salad Marathon, where I’m sharing 30 salads in a row through to Christmas Eve – just for something different to the usual sugar-loaded baking countdowns!!
Off the back of last weeks’ French(ish) Tomato Salad with Olive Tapenade, I have another French one for you:
French Bistro Salad
Hearty French bistro classics like steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, French Onion Soup, Quiche Lorraine and Coq au Vin need a light and clean salad on the side to cleanse and refresh the palate … so that you can eat more!
This classic leaf salad has handfuls of herbs for character and colour, while the pretty pink tangles of pickled eschalots bring sweet and tangy pops in every bite. A sprinkling of walnuts gives us a bit of texture as a finishing flourish, and we’re going with a classic lemon dressing to keep things clean and simple.
What goes in French Bistro Salad
Here’s what I’ve put in this salad – but look at this recipe more as a guide rather than something to follow exactly.
The main characteristics are the use of fresh herbs, some leafy greens, a plain lemon dressing and preferably something tangy like the pickled eschalots I’ve included (but you could easily throw in something pickled from a jar instead!).
Herbs – For the herbs I’ve used tarragon (highly recommended for real French), parsley, and chives here but you can use any combination of soft herbs you like. Dill, chervil, basil would all also work wonderfully. Try to keep the herb leaves whole or just roughly chopped or torn if required. Don’t get hung up on the quantities either. Just keep throwing in herbs until you can taste them in the salad!
What you need for Quick Pickled Eschalots
This brings welcome tang as well as pretty pops of colour into the salad. As mentioned above, you could easily switch this out for anything from a jar that’s got that tangy pickled flavour!
Here’s what you need:
I’ve used red wine vinegar here but you can use white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sherry or champagne vinegar. White wine vinegar will be a bit sharp but that’s easily fixed with a little splash of water.
To make the quick pickled eschalots, just stir the sugar until it dissolves in the vinegar, then pickle the eschalots for 30 minutes until they become floppy and bright pink.
What to serve with French Bistro Salad
This salad is of course a natural pairing with any French food. Perfect to make a meal out of a warm slice of Quiche Lorraine or bowl of French Onion Soup, or as a fresh salad alongside a rich Coq au Vin.
Similarly, it’s ideal to serve with any roast, stew like Beef Bourguigon or slow-cooked meats, or foods with rich creamy sauces like this reader favourite Creamy Chicken Pasta and Prawns/Shrimp in Creamy Garlic Sauce.
And just generally, I think the use of fresh herbs makes it really lovely and elegant, a nice salad to include at big festive gatherings as a palette cleanser, or as part of an elegant dinner party. Plus, you get to tell your friends – It’s French, darling! 😂 (I don’t get to play pretend posh very often, so I’ll take it when I can!) – Nagi x
What is the Holiday Salad Marathon?
This is my inaugural Christmas recipe countdown where I am sharing 30 salad recipes in a row until Christmas Eve – something completely different to people’s usual baking countdowns!
These salads are in addition to my regular 3 new recipes a week. Because aren’t you bored of the usual tomato-cucumber-lettuce garden salad routine??
French Bistro Salad
- 1/2 big head green oak or butter/bibb lettuce (about 8 big handfuls – but don’t crush the leaves to measure!)
- 1 baby cos/romaine lettuce
- 1/2 cup tarragon leaves
- 1/2 cup chives , cut into 3cm / 1 1/2″ lengths
- 3/4 cup parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts , roughly chopped then toasted and cooled (optional, Note 1)
Quick Pickled Eschalots:
- 2 eschalots (aka French onion, US: shallots), finely sliced
- 2/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp white sugar
- 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
- Quick Pickled Eschalots: Stir sugar in vinegar until dissolved. Stir in eschalots, then leave for 30 minutes until it becomes floppy and turns pink. Drain.
- Dressing: Shake Dressing in a jar.
- Assemble: Pile lettuce on a platter (flatter better than deep bowl). Drizzle with about 1/2 the Dressing then toss gently with your hands. Scatter over fresh herbs, pickled eschalots and walnuts. Drizzle lightly with more Dressing. Serve immediately!
Lettuce – typically, a French Bistro Salad will include a softer lettuce (Bibb/butter or green oak) plus a lessor amount of a crisper one (in this case baby cos lettuce/romaine).
Herbs – use any fresh soft herbs you want, the combination I’ve used is fairly common. The use of tarragon makes it particularly French. Dill, chervil and basil are especially excellent alternatives.
Eschalots – a scattering of something pickled is common. For a speedy option, just use something out of a jar, finely sliced if it’s big like a pickle, or scattering of capers.
Walnuts – optional here, or sub with another nut like almonds, macadamias, pistachios, cashews. Or pepitas or sunflower seeds. YUM.
Life of Dozer
Sometimes I wonder why I bother bathing this dog 🤷🏻♀️