Warm salads make a great dinner salad. Once you understand the general technique you can create a wide variety of dishes. The south has a tradition of making wilted salads, I first learned about them from a wizened old southern gay man, who taught me how to wilt greens with bacon fat. I like them because they are more toothsome than a regular salad and have a comforting warmth that makes them more suitable for an evening meal than a cold salad. It also makes a great presentation.
This is my favorite rendition of the warm salad. Everything in the recipe can be replaced with another similar ingredient to create an entirely new dish. Try replacing the walnuts with filberts, the pears with blood oranges, the spinach with an escarole mix, the beef for chicken, roast pork loin or salmon. You can also add cheese to the salad, for beef I like a blue cheese, for chicken a Gruyere or Gouda is nice.
preparation: I make it a habit of practicing mise en place so my directions reflect that.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Put the spinach in the bowl you intend to toss the salad in, it should be very large.
- Put the pear, cranberries and walnuts on a plate to the side, you will only add them to the salad once the greens have been plated.
- Heat a medium frying pan (non stick is best), with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it, until the oil just begins to smoke.
- Put the steak in the pan, letting it cook on one side for 3 minutes. (this is a pan sear)
- Turn over meat and immediately place the pan in the oven, leave it in there for 4 minutes. Remove meat, and place on the cutting board, let stand for at least 5 minutes to redistribute the juices and to finish cooking.
- While the meat is resting, return the pan to high heat, deglaze with a 3 tablespoons of white wine, scraping up the fond, add the shallots and cook them until they become fragrant and translucent. Once the liquid in the pan is very syrupy and the shallots have a nice glaze on them,remove the pan from heat. Leave the shallots in the pan.
- After the meat has rested, slice it thinly on the bias.
- To make the dressing:
- Put the vinegar, garlic and mustard into a medium bowl, slowly whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. The emulsion is important so that your dressing doesn't break when you heat it.
- Heat up the pan in which you cooked the meat until the shallots begin to sizzle. (medium heat)
- Add the dressing to the pan, stirring a couple times with the whisk to maintain the emulsion. After about 30 seconds, pour the dressing over the spinach and toss well with tongs.
- Place a portion of the greens on the plate and drape the pears, cranberries, walnuts, and meat over the top of them.
- Eat it! Duh~~
I understand that the recipe may appear a little involved, but once you get the technique down, such a salad can be whipped up in no time flat. Experiment with it!