Not-Too-Virtuous Salad with Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

By • November 13, 2009 98 Comments

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Author Notes: Normally I pass over any dressing that requires anything more than a bowl and a whisk, but this dressing is well worth the extra dishes. Acidic, sweet, salty, crunchy, decadent, fresh- this salad hits all of the notes! I love how the acidic sweetness of the dressing complements the savory saltiness of the bacon. Pair the clean fresh flavors of the fennel and celery root with a combination of bitter and substantial greens and you will not be sorry you made the effort. This would be fantastic with duck or a big wedge of stinky cheese and served as an entree. - wanderashwanderash

Food52 Review: Wanderash is right -- this salad isn't wimpy or chaste, with its sultry, thyme-laced caramel apple dressing and bacony chew. But for every lardon, there's a crunchy hit of celery root, a shard of fennel and tart apple, and by the time you've emptied your bowl, you're sated and happy and have forgotten the chill of the outside world. The dressing recipe makes much more than you need, but you won't mind. Make more salad or warm it gently to drizzle over a pork chop or duck breast. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 4-6

For the salad:

  • 4 handfuls mixed greens, about 6 oz.
  • 1/4 celery root, peeled and very thinly sliced or cut into matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted
  • 5 slices lardons or thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 tart apple, thinly sliced into half moons
  1. In a heavy skillet cook lardons over moderate heat. Stir occasionally until crispy on all sides and reserve on a paper towel to drain fat.
  2. Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour 1/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss well.
  3. Taste a piece of lettuce and add more dressing depending on your preference.

Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 3 ounces plus 1 ounce apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 gala apple, peeled, cored and medium diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • salt
  1. In a small skillet over medium heat add 3 ounces vinegar and the sugar. Let it reduce until the color turns a dark caramel color and begins to thicken. You will start to see big foamy bubbles on the surface.
  2. Add the apples and garlic and sauté until the apples are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and put in the blender with 1 ounce of vinegar, thyme, juice of ½ lemon and a pinch of salt. Woosh until blended, then slowly add the oil. Blend until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and season with salt and perhaps a splash more vinegar.

More Great Recipes: Fennel|Tarts|Fruit|Vegetables|Salads

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Comments (98) Questions (5)


5 months ago lauriw

Hands down my favorite salad dressing of all time.


9 months ago krystine

i made this salad last night for dinner as a side dish and it stole the show!


10 months ago Chispa

I made this almost exactly as the recipe read (every cook makes slight adjustments for pantry reasons as well as taste, right?) - and people at my party loved this more than anything else on the table. Amazing. So grateful to have found this recipe.


11 months ago Leetle

Yum Yum... So tasty!


about 1 year ago mstv

Great! I prefer this with half the sugar, a tsp of Dijon mustard, more salt and black pepper. I also think the flavor goes well with chèvre in a salad. Great recipe and technique.


over 1 year ago Sara Gillis

I've only made the dressing from this recipe, but it is wonderful. With mixed greens, goat cheese, spiced pecans...marvellous.


over 1 year ago Chris Glenn

So, for those of you that are thinning the salad dressing, have you ever considered replacing part of the vinegar or oil with an equal amount of flavored liqueur or wine or beer? I've been doing that for years. One of my favorite ones to use is Chambord, I believe that a black raspberry Liqueur. That flavor may not be appropriate for this dressing but perhaps applejack or(?) I usually use a tablespoon or two to replace part of the oil or vinegar.


almost 2 years ago za'atar

This salad dressing is delicious ... but the apple I used must have been too large because my dressing turned out much thicker and clumpier than I hoped. Even after adding extra oil, for me it was just a bit strange on the salad. However, the flavor is fantastic and I would definitely use it on pork or duck as suggested in A&M's review.


almost 2 years ago Loredona

I had a small dinner party Friday evening and this salad was a big hit with my guest. I served it as a first course along with Kombocha Risotto and the Chocolate Bundt Cake on this site as the dessert course. The dressing was what made the salad. I also used some spicy pecan's from Trader Joes and topped it off with gorgonzola. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!!


almost 2 years ago wanderash

love the idea of the spicy pecans-- i am going to try that. The blue cheese is a pairing we have enjoyed too. yummy!


almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

My whole family really likes this salad, so I've included this recipe in my Thanksgiving 2013 menu collection. We'll be having MrsLarkin's Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie, so I plan to make this using pears instead of apples, though I'll still use apple cider in the dressing. Will be testing it out over this weekend. I'm so looking forward to it! ;o)


almost 2 years ago wanderash

So happy to hear it is going to be on your T-day table. It will be on ours too! I think the pears will be perfect.


almost 2 years ago Salvegging

This dressing is soo good! I made my own riff on the salad with thin sliced apples/toast pecans/blue cheese and a bit of shaved carrot. It pretty much compliments any fall-junkie salad : ) Thanks!


almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Salvegging, I like your idea to add carrots! I'm not a big fan of raw fennel (as much as I like it cooked just about every possible way, and pickled), so I will use carrots instead (or, in addition to the jicama I have substituted in the past). Plus, they carrots will add more color. Such a great idea. Thank you for posting here. ;o)


over 2 years ago piacere

This fantabulous recipe, which someone posted on Pinterest, is what led me to find Food52. As a newbie to Food52 I am grateful for the virtual trail of crumbs that led me to both this delicious salad recipe (it has been a three time hit at our house) and this delicious, as in intriguing, website. Thanks!


over 2 years ago Ham

I just served this at a dinner party and everyone raved about the flavors. An extremely well composed salad. I accidentally left the skins of the apple (meant for the dressing) on, but as far as I could tell it just dyed the dressing a bit more red. Delicious! I will definitely make this again for Christmas dinner.


over 2 years ago linda.schoenfeld

Delicious salad and fantastic dressing, but is it supposed to be the consistency of applesauce or should I have thinned it?


over 2 years ago jifferb

I had that issue too once- when I ran out of oil. Don't skimp on the oil!


almost 3 years ago jifferb

I know Mr. Sifton says salad doesn't belong on a Thanksgiving table, but this one is going on mine. The dressing is deeeevine and the celery and fennel are genius and a the perfect balance for the sweet potato casserole with marshmellows. Btw, I use roasted hazelnuts instead of pecans and they are goooooood! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


over 3 years ago Krechiewow

This sounds positivity gorgeous! must try


over 3 years ago Krechiewow

This sounds positivity gorgeous! must try


over 3 years ago tulueats

I made this truly delicious vinaigrette for my Thanksgiving guests. The salad consisted of bitter and sweet greens, some gorgonzola cheese crumbles, fennel slices and thin raw turnip rounds. Thank you so much for this recipe! Right up there with the best of Food52 winners! I will use it again and again.


almost 4 years ago zoe.d

This is by far one of my favorite salads. It's perfect cold weather comfort. The dressing is fantastic and I find celery works perfectly when I don't have celery root in the house. Thanks for the recipe.


almost 4 years ago Robin22

At first the dressing seemed a bit labour intensive but it's really so easy, and SOOO worth it. We subbed in toasted almonds and sauteed tofu for the pecans and bacon and it was a total hit!