I made this delicious salad for lunch a couple of weeks ago. My first thought upon tasting it was, "Why have I never made this before?!"
It also gave me an excuse to try making oven baked bacon for the first time and now I am never going back! Perfectly cooked bacon without splattering hot grease all over the kitchen (and myself). Yes, please.
It's got a lot of great flavors going on. The crispy, salty, smokey crumbled bacon, the sweet, mellow, caramelized onions, the fresh, slightly mineral-like taste of the spinach, the hearty hard-boiled egg and the tangy, slightly sweet, rich dressing that melds it all together into a meltingly decadent salad.
Prep is not too time-consuming (I wouldn't have made this if it were...) Put your bacon in the oven to cook, get your eggs boiling, slice your onions and get them caramelizing, wash and dry your spinach, crumble your bacon, peel and slice your hard-boiled eggs, make your hot dressing and combine it all.
The result is a wonderful salad that eats like a true meal.
Couple things to note:
1. Typically, a warm spinach salad also includes mushrooms (I am not at all opposed to including them but had none on hand) and raw onions. I definitely prefer the onions sauteed as their flavor is so much more concentrated, sweeter and mellower. Plus there's the added bonus of being able to talk to other humans WITHOUT breathing a blast of onion-scented breath in anyone's face after lunch :-)
2. There was a recall on several brands of baby spinach recently due to an E. coli scare so, in addition to making sure you're not using anything tainted, it's a good reminder to try to buy from a local farm/farmer whenever you can.
Spinach Salad With Warm Bacon Dressing & Caramelized Onions
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a meal
* 3 hard-boiled eggs (I recommend using organic, pasture-raised eggs if you can get them)
* 6-8 slices thick cut bacon (I used a delicious maple hickory smoked from my cousin Norah's wonderful Sweetland farm in Vermont)
* 1 small red onion (you can use any color but red is prettier)
* 1 bag of spinach (I like to use full grown leaves, not baby spinach since it stands up so much better to the heat of the warm dressing) and any browned or tough stems removed
* 5 Tbsps bacon grease (from the strips you cook)
* 3 Tbsps red wine vinegar
* 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (you can use sugar or honey but I like the maple flavor better)
* 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
* Sea salt to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400. Lay strips of bacon in a heavy baking sheet (do not crowd) and bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Once the bacon is as done as you like it, remove from oven and drain on a paper grocery bag. Once cool enough to handle, break it into little chunks. Pour off the liquified grease into a jar -- do NOT throw it away, you will need it! It's also wonderful to cook with.
2. While bacon is cooking, fill a medium pot with water, add the eggs, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs and cool them in a bowl of ice water. Once they're cool enough to handle, peel and slice.
3. While the eggs and bacon are cooking, peel and slice the onion and wash and dry the spinach. If you're not using baby spinach, tear any large leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place the spinach in a large salad bowl and set aside.
4. Take 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the jar and place it in a frying pan on medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Then turn off the heat and remove to a small bowl to cool.
5. Now it's time to make the dressing: Put another 3 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan you cooked the onions in, then add the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and maple syrup and whisk over medium-low heat until thoroughly heated.
6. Now you put it all together! Arrange the onions and crumbled bacon pieces on top of the spinach. Pour the hot bacon mustard dressing over everything and toss to make sure everything gets evenly coated. Arrange the sliced eggs over the top of the dressed salad and serve.