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Author Notes: This salad, which calls back to the classic bacon-plus-bitter pairing, is a flexible recipe—one I like to think of as a “baseline.”
My preference is to use bitter and wild-tasting dandelion greens alongside chicory, which, although not as bitter, still has a stern austerity. Soaking the greens in ice water, then chilling them, covered in a cotton cloth, in the fridge, leaches some of the bitterness from the dandelion greens and crisps everything up so that the leaves are crunchy enough to withstand the warm dressing. And while I enjoy this salad specifically as a way to make bitter leaves incredibly palatable, I've also used kale or beautiful baby spinach with great success.
The richness of bacon or any fatty pork pairs well with bitter flavors, adding sweetness and salty fat to balance out the leanness of the greens. You can modify it by using pancetta instead of bacon or by playing around with different vinegars: Try balsamic for a deeper, sharper flavor, or sherry vinegar for a sweeter taste. Sometimes I like to add a spoonful of mustard to the vinaigrette just before I add the vinegar.
The croutons, which add crunchy textural contrast, can also be swapped out: Feel free to substitute nuts of some kind, like roasted almonds or pecans, or even pumpkin seeds. —Sara Jenkins
Serves 4 to 6
For the bacon vinaigrette:
- 4 strips thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon, cut into thin sticks
- 1 small shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
- 1/4 cup Italian red wine vinegar
- 2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, as necessary
For the salad:
- 1 small bunch dandelion greens
- 1 half-bunch (or 1 small bunch) chicory
- 1 cup small toasted plain croutons
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Trim and clean the dandelion greens and chicory and soak in ice water for a half-hour or more. Drain, shake and wrap in a clean dry cloth in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for a half-hour or as much as a day.
- Take the bacon and render it out slowly and gently in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. When the bacon is well rendered but not yet crisp, add the minced shallot and let cook out. Add the garlic and continue to cook slowly until the bacon is crisp and the onions are cooked but not brown. Add the vinegar and taste. If necessary, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of olive to balance it out (this all depends on how much fat the bacon renders out: If it renders out a lot, you need less olive oil. but if there is not enough fat rendered out, you will need more. Add a pinch of salt and transfer the dressing to a heatproof container and keep warm beside the stove.
- Take the two hard-boiled eggs, chop them roughly, and then push them through a sieve or tea strainer to crumble them completely.
- Take the greens out of the fridge, give them a rough chop or tear, and mound them in a salad bowl with the croutons. Dress the salad with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Bring the dressing back up to a hot temperature quickly, but do not cook. Pour hot dressing over the greens and toss. Garnish with the sieved egg and serve and eat immediately
- This recipe is a Community Pick!