Friday, January 14, 2011

Warm Bacon Salad--An Import from Belgium

The common opinion has it that bacon is not good for you, but what is wrong with a little bit of bacon from time to time? Just a couple of slices added to any dish makes it more aromatic and tasty. Scrambled eggs become almost spicy when fried on bacon and many simple soups get a new flair when served with pancetta or hardwood smoked bacon. Also several noodle dishes, especially those made from potatoes--Polish specialty--become a real feast when served with fried bacon on top.

I got this recipe from a friend. The salad is called Liegeoise because it comes from the city of Liege in Belgium. I discovered several recipes for it on the internet and in various cookbooks but none of them was exactly as the one I had.

I followed almost precisely the recipe I got from my friend with the exception of how much bacon to put in. I added a little more of it than the recipe called for, but I used a very lean bacon, mindful of the caloric content. I happened to have white wine tarragon vinegar, which is the exact same vinegar that is used in this recipe. I made it myself, but you can also buy it in many grocery stores.

It is a perfect salad for this cold season, as it is supposed to be served with warm bacon. I really wanted to make it the other day. The same morning I also baked country bread and it was a wonderful addition to the salad, and very fulfilling combination of a hearty salad and freshly baked bread. It can make a comforting weekend lunch, especially if served with a glass of white wine.

Warm bacon and Grean Bean Salad
(Serves four)

1/2 pack of smoked lean bacon (about 3 oz) cut into small cubes,
1 large onion,
1/2 lb grean beans, can be frozen (I like to use extra fine green beans for this salad),
1 lb baby potatoes,
freshly ground pepper,
about 1 cup of tarragon vinegar, or white wine vinegar.

1. Cut potatoes in halves leaving the peel on, cook them in salted water until soft, drain.
2. Boil water and cook the beans for 3-8 minutes, just to the point when they are still a little bit crunchy (al dente). It will take less time for extra fine beans to cook and longer for the regular ones, drain.
3. Heat the frying pan and add the bacon. Fry the bacon first at high heat, and when most of the fat is melted, turn the heat down and add onion. Fry them all together until the onion becomes transparent and almost all the fat from the bacon is melted.
4. At that point you may take away some grease from the pan, or if the bacon was lean to start with leave it like that. Add some vinegar to the pan (just enough to cover the bacon). Let it boil on low heat for about 3 minutes to reduce the vinegar somewhat.
5. In a large bowl mix potatoes with beans, season with pepper, pour the hot vinegar sauce with bacon on top. Mix and serve.

Vegetables can be cooked ahead, and do not have to be hot, just in room temperature. Hot vinegar sauce will make this dish slightly warm.

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