Come mid-January, I'm hankering for a good salad. I love my roasts, chilis, and casseroles as much as the next Midwestern gal, but I crave the crisp green goodness that only a big plate of salad can give me. Enter: Winter Salad. All of winter's bounty tossed in a warm bacon vinaigrette and topped with the EASIEST candied pecans! It's good as a side dish and even filling enough to be a main dish.
The base of this salad is spinach and chopped Brussels sprouts. Yes RAW Brussels sprouts. The first time I ever had raw Brussels in my salad, I was skeptical at first, too - y'all know I prefer my sprouts blackened till next Tuesday. But they add the perfect crunch, and just the right amount of that Brussels sprout flavor.
Oh, and if ever you find yourself in charge of making a salad for a winter gathering (I'm looking at you, Thanksgiving), this is a great thing to make! It would make a real pretty layered salad if you happen to have a trifle bowl or some other glass-type dish. And there are conveniently 7 components to this salad (count them: spinach, Brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, red onion, blue cheese, bacon vinaigrette, candied pecans), which makes this ...drum roll... a 7 layer salad!
Winter Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
A fresh, delicious salad using winter's best ingredients!
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 teaspoons water
- 4 strips bacon, diced
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise and shredded
- 1/4 red onion cut into thin half moons
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 3 ounces blue cheese crumbles
- 4 tablespoons bacon fat
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon
- salt and ground pepper, to taste
For the pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add pecans and stir in the water until a glaze forms and pecans are evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes, until sugar has melted and pecans are caramelized on the bottom. Remove from baking sheet immediately to cool.
For the salad
- Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat 10-12 minutes, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove diced bacon with a slotted spoon.
- Transfer 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat to a small bowl and whisk together with vinegar, Dijon, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Toss together the bacon, shredded Brussels sprouts, red onion, dried cranberries, spinach, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss until salad is evenly coated. Serve immediately topped with candied pecans.
Bacon is easiest to dice when it's frozen. If you don't have frozen bacon, use kitchen shears!
You can also serve the vinaigrette on the side, but you may need to heat it slightly as the bacon fat will harden at room temperature.
Candied pecans adapted from Once Upon A Chef