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March 20, 2006

Shrimp, Pancetta, and Spinach Salad

Here's a catchup entry. I made this salad earlier this past week, using, among other ingredients, the mystery endive.

This dish was very, very loosely inspired by a shrimp, bacon, and spinach salad that I had at Applebee's, of all places. It was really quite good, except that a) they overdid it a bit on the dressing (which, given the calorie count of most restaurant dressings, probably means they really overdid it on the calories), and b) the dressing had an oddly sweet undertone that I didn't care for. This salad does not sweeten the dressing, and I served the dressing on the side so that each person could decide how much they wanted. However, the dressing includes rendered bacon (well, pancetta) fat, which is probably not going to please health food purists. (I don't think that the amount is excessive, but some people just don't go for pig fat. You can always leave it out.)

This recipe makes enough to serve 2 people for dinner and have enough left over for one of them to have a side serving of salad for lunch.

Ingredients: Salad

  • 1/2 bunch baby spinach leaves, washed, stems removed.
  • Several leaves curly endive or frisee or other lettuce, washed, torn into bite-sized pieces (It's nice to have a tiny amount of some other strong tasting leaf to play off against the spinach.)
  • ~1/2 lb. medium-sized frozen uncooked shrimp, thawed, peeled, and tailed. (I don't devein shrimp, since Mark Bittman, who is my personal seafood guru, declares it not worth the effort. Devein if you like.)
  • An ounce or two of pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces. (I used pancetta because I happened to have some on hand.)
  • 1/2 15 oz. can hearts of palm, cut into bite-sized rounds.
  • 1 container of grape tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are large-ish, halve them.)
  • dried thyme
  • leaves stripped from a few sprigs fresh thyme

Ingredients: Dressing

  • Fat rendered from bacon or pancetta. (Optional. See steps below.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • Dijon mustard

The Steps

  1. Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat until it is crispy and some of the fat has rendered out. Remove the pancetta to a plate. Pour off most of the fat into a small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the shrimp on both sides with dried thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Saute the shrimp in the pan used to cook the pancetta until opaque and cooked through. (3 to 5 minutes.)
  3. Toss the hot shrimp with the pancetta and all the other salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
  4. Make a vinaigrette dressing using the pancetta fat, olive oil, sherry vinegar, thyme, and generous dollops of Dijon mustard. (I threw the dressing together pretty much by feel - you want roughly twice as much fat/oil as vinegar. Just whisk everything together vigorously, taste, and adjust accordingly.)
  5. Serve the salad, passing the dressing and a pepper grinder for people to apply to their salad as suits them.

Posted by spaceling at March 20, 2006 10:33 AM

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