Some of the best things in life are created out of necessity, which is exactly how this recipe was developed. This delicious arugula salad was thrown together one night when I had very few ingredients to cook with: a half-eaten bag of grapes, stale bread, and bacon chopped into lardons.
The lardons came from the belly of a wild hog I trapped at my ranch. It was cured for a week, then smoked for several hours before being trimmed and sliced. A wild hog’s belly is similar to a domestic pig, but with a few differences. The cut is tougher and typically has less fat. The flavor is much more robust than domestic pigs due to its diet. This makes it rich and succulent. However, you can use domestic pig products like thick-cut bacon, slab bacon, or similar.
One other thing to note is that the fat from wild hogs takes longer to render than traditional bacon. The best way to enjoy it is to cook at lower temperatures, so the meat doesn’t burn before the fat has melted. This method yields crispy perfection while leaving behind a luscious base for the vinaigrette. —Danielle Prewett
1 1/2 cups
red seedless grapes
1 1/2 cups
stale sourdough or other crusty bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
fresh thyme, plus more to taste
avocado or grapeseed oil, plus more as needed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
thick-cut bacon, chopped into 1/4 -1/2” pieces for lardons
small shallot, sliced thinly
red wine vinegar
shaved Parmesan cheese, or crumbled feta, goat, or blue cheese
fresh salad greens, such as arugula, frisee, or spring mix
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Spread the grapes across a sheet tray and drizzle with a light layer of oil to coat. Season generously with sea salt, black pepper, and half of the fresh thyme leaves.
Scatter the torn pieces of bread across a separate sheet tray, and season the same way as the grapes: Drizzle with a light layer of oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remainder of the thyme.
Place the grapes and the bread in the oven. Bake the bread until it’s its golden brown and toasted. Roast the grapes until they are soft and beginning to burst, about 15 minutes. Remove both and set aside.
Gently cook the chopped bacon in a saute over medium heat. Once the fat starts to render, add the shallots to the pan. Continue to cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and the shallots are soft. Use a slotted spoon and remove the bacon and shallots. Set aside.
Pour the rendered fat into a small measuring cup; you should have roughly 1/4 cup’s worth. If you have more, reserve it for another cooking use, or increase the amount of vinegar as needed so that you end up with a 2:1 ratio of fat to vinegar.
Pour the red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Slowly add the warm bacon fat, whisking constantly until thick, creamy, and fully emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the salad by tossing the greens with the bacon vinaigrette, roasted grapes, toasted sourdough, reserved shallots and bacon, and shaved Parmesan.