Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon
February 9, 2008
Looking for a way to highlight some of the bacon I just finished making, but not feeling in the mood for anything too heavy, my thoughts turned to a southern classic – wilted spinach salad. I always love the premise – bright green spinach, softened slightly with the heat of the warm dressing, contrasting with the snap of crisp bacon and creaminess of a perfectly hard-boiled egg.
I think the key is in getting the spinach to wilt and gloss over with the warm bacon grease in the dressing, rather than just coat the leaves and clump up. Cooled bacon grease = bad mouthfeel.
Leafing through an old Cook’s Illustrated, I found a solution. By tossing the aromatics in the dressing recipe into the hot pan with the drippings from the bacon and building the dressing around them, the dressing is able to retain enough heat when tossed with the cool greens to successfully wilt the spinach. Think of each bit of onion and garlic as a tiny hot water bottle warming up the greens.
The results were fabulous. The bacon was crisp and perfectly salty, ensconced in greens wilted just enough for contrast.
Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, serves 2
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
couple of grinds of black pepper
pinch of salt
mix vinegar with sugar, salt & pepper. set aside.
4 slices thick-cut bacon
slice into 1/2 inch lardons. fry in medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp ~ 10 minutes. remove bacon from skillet with slotted spoon. pour bacon fat into a heatproof bowl. measure 2 tablespoons of the fat back into the pan.
1/4 of a medium red onion, chopped (~1/4 cup)
1 small garlic clove, minced
add onion to pan & saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened ~ 3 minutes. toss in the garlic, stir 15 seconds. add cider vinegar mixture & remove pan from heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the good, browned bits. swirl and quickly toss with
half a bag of baby spinach (~3 oz)
until spinach is slightly wilted. garnish with bacon and
2 hardboiled eggs, quartered or diced, if desired
serve before the bacon grease can cool.