January’s chill (and possibly even snow) is upon us, and I’ve been craving warm, steaming bowls of soup, home-baked bread fresh out of the oven smothered with butter, and mugs of tea with honey and lemon.
But I’ve also had a salad yearning. But not your typical, light, refreshing spring or summer salad. Rather I’ve been craving Wilted Spinach Salad – a much heartier salad with a bit of warmth.
If you’ve never had a wilted spinach salad, you’ve been missing out. It’s typically made with baby spinach leaves (obviously), tossed with a warm vinaigrette made from bacon fat, and then sprinkled with the bacon that was involved in generating the bacon fat as well as hard-boiled egg and red onion. You can throw in a few other ingredients if you’re so inclined – mushrooms, orange slices, croutons.
Pretty basic ingredients, nothing too fancy, but somehow they come together and unite into one of my all-time favorite salads, where the sum is definitely larger than its parts.
So this January skip the soup and try a comforting salad.
1 year ago: Chicken Mole Enchiladas
Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing (serves 4 as a side)
Note: If you want to prepare ahead of time, the hard-boiled eggs can be done the day before. The day of, the warm dressing can be prepared earlier in the day, up to the point where you add the vinegar. When you are ready to serve the salads, heat dressing over medium heat till warm, then off-heat add the vinegar. Assemble the salad as instructed below.
4 ounces (115 grams) baby spinach
4 slices (4 ounces or 115 grams) good-quality bacon, chopped fine (streaky bacon, if in UK)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
Start by hard-boiling the eggs. Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water by 1″ / 2.5 cm (i.e. there should be 1″ of water above the egg). Bring to a rolling boil, partially covered, over medium-high heat (takes about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover pan completely, and cook eggs for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and let eggs stand in hot water, covered, for 15 minutes. Place eggs in an ice-water filled bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes. Peel eggs and cut into quarters.
While the eggs are cooking, place the spinach in a large bowl. Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. (Note, if you are using UK bacon you will most likely only have about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, in which case supplement with an additional tablespoon of olive oil.) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil (or 2 tablespoons if you only yielded 1 tablespoon bacon fat) to the bacon fat in the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper and cook until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the vinegar.
To assemble your salad, toss the bacon with the spinach. Pour most of the warm dressing over the salad and toss to coat, gently wilting the spinach. Taste salad and if it requires more dressing, then toss with the remaining dressing. Divide salad between four plates, top with the hard-boiled egg quarters and serve.
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook