Thursday, July 24, 2014

Salad With Maple Bacon Vinaigrette - A Delicious Main Dish

This delicious salad is one of my most requested recipes. The original version of it came from The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen website and it was delicious. But like all real cooks, I live to change things up.  I turned mine into a main dish by adding making a pork loin, which I sliced on top. But you could skip the pork loin and keep it as a side.
I guess you could even skip the bacon and substitute olive oil,  but you're dead to me. 
Let's start with the insanely delicious vinaigrette -
You'll need 1/3 cup of maple syrup - has to be the real stuff - no Mrs. Butterworth allowed.
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
Enough of your favorite lettuce (I like romaine or iceberg, but baby spinach or kale would work) to cover your serving platter.
1 sweet eating apple, sliced.
6 ounces of pecans
4 ounces of dried cherries
6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 finely diced shallot
6 ounces bacon
1 Bartlett pear (optional - I happened to have one, so I used it and it was great)
Put the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar and shake or in a small bowl and whisk.
When they are nice emulsified and the salt dissolved, add the maple syrup and shake or whisk.
Try not to drink the salad dressing. It's a real temptation. Next, let's take that shallot.
Peel, dice finely and set aside.
 Time to make the pork loin. As I said, it's optional. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Start with a nice piece of pork loin. I like to sprinkle mine with salt and sugar a day or two ahead of time. But you can do it right before cooking as well.
I make a rub of black pepper, dried thyme and dried rosemary.
Coat the pork loin with the rub.
Get an oven-proof skillet piping hot and add about a tablespoon of olive oil.
Now add the pork loin and brown on all sides.

Then put the skillet in the pre-heated oven. It should cook for around 12 to 15 minutes or until the pork loin registers about 145 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Then take the pork loin out, wrap it in foil and allow it to rest while you finish prepping the salad.
 Time to fry some bacon! Bacon! Chop it up and fry until crispy.
Remove bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Turn off the heat, but leave the bacon fat in the pan. We'll get back to it shortly.
Chop up the lettuce of choice and spread it across your serving platter.
Let's check out our salad ingredients:
I ended up with the pear because my husband couldn't tell if my list said pecans or pears. The list said pecans, but as it turns out, pears are perfect in this dish, too.  Slice up the apple with the peel on and peel and slice the pair. Then start arranging the bacon, pecans, cherries, blue cheese and fruit on top of the lettuce.
Just keep adding the deliciousness.
Now turn the flame on underneath the bacon fat and get it hot again. Add the shallots.

Give them  about a minute to soften, then add the rest of the dressing.  Pour in any juices that have accumulated from the pork loin wrapped in foil.
It should be heated through in less than a minute. Turn off the heat and slice the pork loin.
Arrange the pork loin on top of the salad and start spooning on the hot dressing.
Remember, this is both the salad dressing and sauce for the pork. You can also serve some dressing on the side for people to add to their individual plates.
I also do a version of this where I microwave sliced sweet potatoes and then roast them in the pan the pork cooks in while it's resting. I'll get photos the next time I whip that up. 
The delicious vinaigrette goes great on any kind of salad. I think it would be kind of kick-ass for a hot potato salad, but I haven't made that yet.  Enjoy!


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Secret To Perfect Cobb Salad

Cobb salad is an amazing dish. More than a salad, it's a perfect meal packed with protein and flavor. It has meat and cheese and vegetables dressed in a tangy vinaigrette. I love a good Cobb salad, but it's really hard to get a decent one out. Either the ingredients are wrong or it's just a pile of dried up stuff on a plate with dressing on the side.
The ingredients in a Cobb salad are easy to remember. Take romaine or iceberg lettuce and then EAT COBB.  Eggs, Avocado, Tomatoes, Chicken, Olives & Onions, Bacon & Blue cheese.
The eggs are hard cooked, the chicken is either boiled or grilled and then diced and the onions are scallions or chives. You'll want to use mission olives and not a sharp briny olive like Kalamatas.  Each of these items needs to be diced into similarly sized pieces. You will also want to chop up the lettuce into bite-sized pieces.
Now let's make the vinaigrette. The ingredients here are 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1tsp. lemon juice, 1  tsp. Worcestershire sauce,  1/2 tsp sugar, tsp salt, sprinkle pepper and a minced clove of garlic.
 In a small jar combine everything but the oil and give it a good shake (if you don't have a jar, you can whisk in a bowl). Leave out the oil because you want the sugar and salt to dissolve and the won't do that in oil. Once it's all combined, add the oil and give it another good shake. Taste and adjust salt, sugar and pepper to taste.  It's a good idea to save old relish or pickle jars just for making things like dressing.
You'll want a nice large platter for assembling this salad. You'll also want a bowl, because we are going to toss everything in a light coat of dressing before serving. Start with the lettuce. This is a composed salad, not just a bunch of lettuce with stuff on top, so the lettuce should not be too much more prominent that the other ingredients. Just enough to cover the plate.
Toss it very lightly in about a tablespoon of the dressing and arrange it to cover the platter.
 Then toss each of the ingredients separately in just a little dressing before adding to the platter. This includes the chicken.
Do the same for the tomatoes, avocados, olives and scallions. The bacon, blue cheese and eggs can skip it. But I would salt and pepper the eggs after they are chopped. Dressing ingredients separately when assembling a salad is the key to an awesome salad. You will also use a lot less dressing,
Then start arranging the ingredients in strips on top of the lettuce.
It doesn't take a lot of artistic effort, but it sure looks nice when it's done.

Serve the remaining dressing on the side and everyone can add extra if they need it.  Yum!