Friday, November 23, 2012

spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette

gotta little obsessed

Happy Pie For Breakfast Day, friends! Do you see what I did there? I made it official, which means that you need not feel any regret that you may have innocently come upon a lonely wedge of leftover pie in the fridge this morning, and before you knew it, before you could responsibly hash out the pros and cons of setting your day to the tune of pie, and not, say, a muesli, fresh fruit and herbal tea detox, you in fact did have pie for breakfast and it was wonderful. You need not feel any regret because it’s a holiday, and it was important that you joined in the celebration. You were only doing your part. (Gobble, gobble.)

baby spinach
sliced button mushrooms

And now that we got that out of the way, I bet you could go for a salad. No, not a Salad of Thanksgiving Repentance; that would be rather dull. It might include wheat germ, and it’s too soon for all of that. I firmly believe that on the road from total overindulgence to the kind of mood that leads to my gym being jam-packed with Resolutes on January 1st, there should be some in-between. A salad, yes, one with several whole and wholesome ingredients, but also one that you look forward to eating because it in fact tastes amazing. And for that, I nominate this one. It comes with a warm bacon vinaigrette and old-school vibe. It’s not even a little sorry.

thick, thick bacon

Before I took off to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Washington DC, Toronto and Chicago on the whirlwind last few weeks of the book tour during which I have missed you all terribly, I went on a serious spinach salad bender, surprising nobody more than myself. If you’d offered me this salad any time in the last 15 years, I’d have pushed it away without regret. For a while there, spinach salads were both ubiquitous and terrible, the classic flavors co-opted with everything from raspberry vinaigrette to honey-drenched walnuts better suited for an ice cream sundae topping. But as will always happen, after a long break, I started craving the old-school version, the one you might have found on a steakhouse menu up until a while ago, and I think it’s fairly well established how warmly I feel about steakhouse classic salads. This one belongs back among their ranks.

thick bacon, diced small
crisping bacon into bits
sizzling vinaigrette, cold saald

A bright pile of baby spinach leaves is scattered with wispy slivers of red onion, thinly sliced white mushrooms (please, no fancy mushrooms here), coins of hard-cooked egg and then the piece de resistance, tiny bits of bacon rendered in a pan until crisp and salty and perfect, and its smoky renderings whisked with a pinch of Dijon and red wine vinaigrette in a skillet to make a quick, hot dressing that you pour over the salad, gently wilting the onion, spinach and mushrooms and leaving you wondering why you don’t make this every week of the year. You should. There’s still time.

spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette

Book Tour: To say that the last few weeks of book tour-ing and meeting so many wonderful people have been incredible would be the understatement of the century. They’ve been mindblowing, overwhelming, humbling and maybe a tiny bit exhausting, but a good exhausting. One I’d do again in a heartbeat. Which is awesome, as it’s not over yet. Boston I know both the Tuesday and Wednesday events are sold out (boo!) but both include details about how you can stop by a bit later for a signing, even if you couldn’t get tickets. I hope I will get to see everyone that missed out. Darien, I can’t wait to see your beautiful library on Thursday. Texas, I will be counting down the second until I can finally get to Book People on Friday in Austin and Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston on Saturday. [All Book Tour Details, here.]

One year ago: Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Biscuits
Two years ago: Upside-Down Cranberry Cake
Three years ago: Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash
Four years ago: Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips
Five years ago: Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples, Roasted Stuffed Onions and Simplest Apple Tart
Six years ago: Not Your Mama’s Coleslaw and Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Adapted from several places, but my favorite version is Alton Brown’s

To hard-boil eggs, well, there are a million approaches out there (see this comment section if you don’t believe me). Mine is to cover a large egg with cold water and put it on the stove and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, set a timer to exactly 9 or 10 minutes, and reduce the heat to medium. Once it’s done, I often plunge it in icy water so that it will stop cooking immediately and also chill quickly. At 9 minutes, large eggs will be a little tender in the center, as you can see in the top photo. At 10, it will be a fully-cooked (but not overcooked) egg.

If you’re freaked out by raw red onion, you can actually add it to the dressing in the skillet for the last 10 seconds to soften it and remove more of the bite, and pour the onions and dressing over the salad together.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 spinach salad enthusiasts

4 ounces baby spinach
2 large white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 small or medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 large egg, hard-boiled (see above), chilled, peeled and thinly sliced
4 pieces thick-sliced bacon (about 4 ounces), finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place spinach in a large, wide salad serving bowl. Scatter with mushrooms, red onion (see above for a different, mellower way to add the onions) and coins of hard-boiled egg. In a large skillet, fry bacon bits over medium-high heat until they’re brown and crisp and have rendered their fat. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the skillet and spread them on a piece of paper towel briefly before sprinkling them over the salad. Pour out all but two tablespoons of hot bacon fat from the skillet. Reheat over medium and quickly whisk in the red wine vinegar, honey and Dijon. Pour over entire salad and season salt and pepper. Toss gently and serve hot. Repeat tomorrow night.


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