Lardons are 1/4-inch thick pieces of bacon cut from a thick slab that are typically cooked until crisp.
Commonly used in French cooking, lardons add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes, from salads and quiches to stews, potatoes, and vegetable dishes. Lardons can only be made from slab bacon. They are more substantial than minced bacon bits and deserve a little care in preparation if they are to be enjoyed at their best.
Apart from adding a rich flavor, lardons are also cooked in the early stages of preparing a number of dishes to release their flavorful fat, a procedure known as rendering.
To make lardons, first cut the rind away from a piece of slab bacon. Some butchers may have done this for you already. Slice the bacon into 1/4-inch thick slices, then turn these slices 90 degrees and cut into 1/4 inch pieces, so each piece contains layers of fat and lean meat.
Place the lardons in a large heavy-bottomed pan with a bit of olive oil. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook gently, stirring to let the lardons brown and crisp evenly. Keep the heat gentle to release the fat into the pan.
When the lardons are crisp and golden, lift them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain them briefly on paper towels.
If using in a cold dish, the lardons can be added right away. If being added to a hot dish, they should be added as garnish at the very end, so they remain crisp. Reserve the fat to use in place of oil or butter in another dish.
If you cannot find slab bacon, you can make lardons using thick-cut bacon from your market or butcher, though they will be slightly less substantial than those made from slab bacon.