Start to Finish: 20 minutes
Country wilted lettuce uses warm ingredients and a lot of acid to soften fresh lettuce leaves and vegetables. This salad has a soft texture and is often rich-tasting, as it uses bacon to season the salad. The following recipe is inspired by ones from Turtle Creek Gardens and the Windsor Certified Farmer’s Market.
1 large head of green leaf lettuce
3 red radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onion, finely minced
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
5 pieces of thick-cut bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Separate the leaves of leaf lettuce, cleaning and drying thoroughly. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add the chopped bacon. Stir occasionally to prevent from burning.
Tear the lettuce into 1- to 2-inch sized pieces, using your hands, while the bacon is cooking. Place in a large mixing bowl, along with the other vegetables.
Tearing the lettuce rather than chopping it with a knife leads to less bruising. Bruised leaves can wilt too much and quickly, leading to a soggy, not wilted, salad.
Mix the mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper in a separate bowl. Remove the frying pan from the stove and let the bacon and grease cool in the pan for 1 to 2 minutes.
It is important to let the bacon and grease rest before adding to the salad. If the bacon and grease is too hot, the lettuce will wilt too quickly, and the salad will be hard to toss.
Pour the mustard and vinegar mix over the lettuce and vegetables. Immediately after, pour the bacon and grease over the mustard mix.
Toss the salad with your hands to coat the leaves evenly. Let the salad rest for 1 to 2 minutes, until the lettuce leaves have softened and begun to wilt. Serve immediately.
Tossing with your hands means there is less tearing to the soft, wilting leaves. Silicone or plastic salad tongs can be also be used, but gently.
The type of lettuce you use can vary. If possible, use a mix of different lettuces, not just leaf lettuce, for variety in color and texture.
Oak leaf lettuces, which have longer leaves;
Red leaf lettuce, which wilts more easily than green leaf lettuce;
Heirloom lettuces, such as the Lolla Rossa, which have a frilly texture and a more pronounced taste; and
- Escarole; which is sweet, bitter and crunchier than leaf lettuce.
Add fresh minced herbs to the vegetables and lettuce to give your salad a bright flavor. Use pieces of:
Fresh dill; or
- Chopped parsley.
Vary the other vegetables you use in the salad. Choose crispy, textured vegetables that give the salad heft, as the lettuce is very light. In all cases, thinly slice the vegetables to ensure that they do not dominate the salad’s texture.
Thinly sliced fennel; and
- Grated carrot.