© David Loftus
warm salad of crispy smoked bacon and jerusalem artichokes
This is a brilliant salad that always makes me smile when I eat it. The smokiness of the bacon goes so well with the potatoey-mushroomy- garlicky flavor of the Jerusalem artichokes (which you can find in good supermarkets and markets). If you can’t get hold of any then use some good new potatoes instead.
Remember, the trick to a warm salad is to get everything ready to go. Ask your family or guests to make their way to the table while you finish it off, and don’t let them talk until they’ve cleared their plates, so they get the salad while it’s good (I’m only joking about the talking!).
First of all, scrub your Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes and boil them in salted water until tender. Once cool, cut them in half and set aside. Meanwhile, carefully remove the core of the radicchio or treviso, then halve, break apart and finely slice. Wash and dry in a salad spinner. Put the butter lettuce leaves in a large bowl with the radicchio or treviso and the parsley or chervil.
Cut your bacon into 1⁄2 inch slices. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a non-stick frying pan and fry the bacon. When it’s lightly golden, add the sliced onion and your cooked and drained Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes. Fry on a medium heat until the bacon is golden and crisp, the onion is sticky and soft and the Jerusalem artichokes have sucked up all the flavors and turned crispy. The important thing to remember here is that you need enough color, but not so much that you’re on the edge of burning everything.
Now is the time to get everyone round the table, holding their knives and forks ready to tuck in! Divide half the contents of your pan between four plates, then add 5 tablespoons of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar to the pan, with a little pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together so the flavors improve and then pour immediately over the salad leaves waiting in the bowl. Toss lightly and quickly (using your fairy fingers!) so each leaf is coated in the tasty balsamic dressing. Put a nice handful of the salad leaf mixture on top of the hot bits and pieces that are already on each plate. Eat at once as it is, or quickly shave over a little Parmesan – nice both ways.
PS This is my favorite warm salad – but have a go at finding your own versions. Instead of bacon, try opening out some good-quality sausages and frying the meat until crisp. Or some nice crispy roasted meat like chicken, duck, quail or even game birds, torn up, with some sautéed mushrooms and roasted tomatoes, would go really well in a salad like this.
• 2 handfuls of large Jerusalem artichokes or new potatoes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 radicchio or treviso, outer leaves discarded
• 3 little butter lettuces, leaves washed, dried and stalks removed
• a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley or chervil, leaves picked and finely sliced
• extra virgin olive oil
• 8 slices thickly sliced bacon or pancetta
• 1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
• 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar