Saturday, March 19, 2011

Salad - it doesn't have to be boring

This dish received the "OMG this is fantastic, we must serve it to people" accolade from Madame. For those who have seen previous posts, you will observe that this is about the highest possible. Fortunately it is really easy and, I have to admit, pretty darn' good. As usual, pork fat rules, but if you have reasons for not eating things porcine you could try using browned butter instead of bacon fat.
The salad is served warmed that makes it a little unusual. Even more so, the lettuce is grilled....
4 strips unsmoked bacon cut into thin strips across the grain
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup halved walnuts
1 t chili powder
2T dark brown sugar
2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise, root end intact, lightly oiled
2 oz mild blue cheese (e.g. Stilton or Stichelton) cut into 4 equal sized pieces
12 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a small skillet and gently fry - until crispy. Add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauce pan, place over medium heat, reduce until it is thickened and a little less than 1/2 its original volume.
When the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan, and add the walnuts to the drippings. Turn the heat to medium/low and cook gently for about a minute. Sprinkle with chili powder, then turn the heat off and add the brown sugar. Toss to make sure the sugar doesn't burn. When the walnuts are well coated, add  the vinegar reduction to the pan, keep on heat stirring regularly so it doesn't stick.When it is close to time to serve, sprinkle salt and pepper on the oiled leaves and grill cut side down for 30 seconds over high heat. The inner leaves should char slightly.

Place a grilled heart cut side up on a large plate. Pour the warmed walnut dressing over the lettuce, sprinkle the bacon over the dressing. Place the blue cheese on top of the leaves, scatter some tomatoes on the plate and serve immediately