Thursday, September 11, 2008

Popeye Would Be Proud

Recently I was debating on what to make for dinner when I randomly remembered a restaurant of my youth: The Ground Round. Why anyone might want to name a restaurant that is beyond me, (the restaurant itself was actually quite nice) but when I was young we loved to go there, and I often ordered the spinach salad, before it was cruelly removed from the menu. It was a wonderful salad, with hard-boiled eggs, bits of bacon, and a warm dressing, and it was often amusing to see the face of the server when a child ordered raw spinach with no prompting. They were much less surprised when my sister and I wanted to order cinnamon dippers, bits of deep-fried dough rolled in cinnamon-sugar and served with fudge and strawberry dipping sauces, for dessert. 
In the spirit of The Ground Round, I made this salad with warm dressing, using my homemade pancetta.
Incidentally, the pancetta turned out fabulously. I know it's rude to toot one's own horn when it comes to achievements, but...toot toot! I'm very proud of it and I will absolutely be making more when I run out. It has way more flavor than anything I've found in a store. Hooray! 

Warm Spinach Salad

This salad was great as a dinner, with two eggs per plate and some rotisserie chicken. It would also be a wonderful side dish with no chicken and less egg, just divided into more servings. I'm leaving the amount of spinach open, after all, only you know how much salad you want, and you can always save any extra dressing. Use regular bacon if you don't have pancetta.

Baby spinach leaves, washed and dried 
Hard-boiled eggs
Shredded cooked chicken (optional)
2 oz thick pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 C red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 C balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tb grainy dijon mustard
3 Tb olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Fill plates with your desired amounts of spinach, egg, and chicken (if using). 
Place cubed pancetta in a cold saute pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring as needed, until the fat renders out and the pancetta is browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to a paper towel and set aside. Reserve the fat in the pan, and add the red onion. Saute until the onions are softened and lightly browned. Turn off the heat. Add vinegar and mustard and whisk to combine. Let reduce for a minute or two in the residual heat of the pan, then add olive oil and some black pepper. Taste dressing and adjust seasonings to taste (extra vinegar to add zing, extra oil to mellow). Spoon dressing over spinach, egg, and chicken, and top with reserved pancetta.

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