Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hot & Spicy Bacon Vinaigrette

I always save the bacon drippings when I fry bacon, letting them cool a bit and then pouring into a jar with a lid and storing in the refrigerator for later use. It only takes a little bit of bacon fat to add great flavor to just about anything -- for example, when I need to saute some onions or garlic or other such veggies in olive oil, I'll often use a little less oil and make up the difference with a little bit of bacon fat. And when making rice, I'll use a little dollop of bacon fat instead of butter added to the boiling water, or even saute the raw rice kernels in the bacon fat for a few minutes before adding the water for boiling. Of course, if you're counting calories or on a reduced-fat diet, you'll need to take into account that the bacon fat will be less healthy than olive oil or canola oil, etc. But if you can splurge once in a while, nothing beats the the rich, smoky bacon-y flavor!

Here is a deliciously decadent vinaigrette that makes good use of bacon drippings. It's wonderful on spinach salad, warm potato salad, and even steamed or microwaved veggies. If using reserved bacon drippings that have solidified in your refrigerator, you'll want to melt the bacon fat (I use a microwave-safe bowl covered with a paper towel against splattering) and keep it warm until you're ready to use it. Likewise, make the dressing just before you're going to use it so that it's warm when served.

1/4 cup bacon drippings, melted and warm
2 tsp Dijon mustard, at room temperature
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar OR balsamic vinegar*, at room temperature
1/8 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbs good-tasting extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt, black pepper to taste (I use several twists of my pepper mill), and a sprinkling (to taste) of red pepper flakes. Whisk in the olive oil until well-combined, then whisk in the warm bacon drippings until well-combined. Taste for balance and adjust the seasonings if desired (a little more vinegar for more tartness? a little more mustard or salt? etc.). Add the dressing to your salad or other food and toss to coat evenly, then serve. If you have leftover dressing, you can store it covered in the refrigerator but you'll need to reheat it gently to use.

*Using balsamic instead of cider vinegar produces a richer, more complex vinaigrette, while the cider vinegar results in a brighter, lighter-tasting dressing

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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