My recipe for warm bacon dressing was inspired by the German potato salad my Aunt Elaine used to make. I remember delicate new or diced boiled potatoes smothered in tangy dressing with sweet onions, crumbled bacon and maybe some celery? I don’t remember if it was celery… because my brain is still back there with the bacon. There was bacon in her potato salad, salty and good, and a sweet and sour sauce I loved. To this day, my potato salads are made with as much vinegar as I can get away with, because I crave an almost puckeringly tangy dressing. Aunt Elaine’s German potato salad captivated me as a teenager, and my memories of the best elements of that dish inspired me to create this recipe.
Warm bacon dressing is not just for potatoes, though it certainly can find its way over a bowl of new potatoes, steaming from a quick bath in boiling water, or roasted potatoes, or fingerlings, etc. You could make a mighty fine potato salad, then kick up your heels and sit on the porch. But… I love this dressing best on greens, and recently thought to add my beloved roasted turnips to the mix. The inherent bitterness of dark greens– Swiss or rainbow chard, kale, mustard greens, beet greens– is a delicious backdrop for the salty, tangy, sweet and sometimes spicy notes of this dressing. Turnips are naturally bitter, too, so why not get them involved? Truly, I think you could pair warm bacon dressing with just about any fresh vegetable, bitter or otherwise. Instead of cooking the greens, like I did here, you could pour bacon dressing over raw cabbage or arugula– something substantial enough to hold up to slight wilting, but enjoyable when eaten raw– and make a great slaw or salad. Why not try it with broccoli, cauliflower, or sugar snap peas? A few simple ingredients, some extra vegetables from the garden, CSA box or farmers’ market, and a few minutes of your time are enough to put a decadent, tasty dish together.
I’m going to ask for Aunt Elaine’s German potato salad recipe soon; part of me wants to have that nostalgic bite of childhood again, and the other part of me wants to see how close I came to the dressing she used to make it. Until then, this warm bacon dressing will do just fine. With cookout season on the way, it’s a handy, easy, delicious recipe to turn almost any vegetable in your crisper into a crowd pleasing side.
Warm Bacon Dressing, with Rainbow Chard & Roasted Turnips
- 1 bunch of salad turnips, quartered or halved, depending on size
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems separated from leaves
- 4 ramps*, leaves separated from bulbs/stems OR 1 – 2 shallots, peeled and minced
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- generous pinch of kosher salt
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Place the turnip quarters in a single layer of a baking dish and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and a small amount of olive oil, maybe 2 tsp. Roast for 20 mins., until fork tender. The outside will be blistered or lightly golden brown.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon and coarsely dice. Leave the drippings in the pan; you should have about 2 T. Add olive oil or butter to make up the deficit if you have less than 2 T.; save any extra for another use. Finely chop the bulbs and stems of the ramps and the stems of the chard** and add to the pan. Cook for about 3 mins. Add the brown sugar, cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook over medium heat, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon, until you have a golden brown, slightly syrupy sauce. Add the diced bacon back to the pan and stir to combine. Season with a pinch of kosher salt, depending on your bacon. Remove the dressing to a small bowl until ready to serve.
Add the roughly chopped leaves of the rainbow chard, and the finely sliced (chiffonade) ramps leaves to your skillet. Cook just until the chard has wilted slightly, about 5 mins. Remove to a serving bowl, add the roasted turnips, and spoon a generous amount of bacon dressing over the top. Toss to combine if you wish. Serve warm.
*A note about ramps: they are in season now, and work very well here, but can just as easily be replaced by 1 -2 minced shallots. The season for ramps is so terribly short, and their price tag is often so terribly high… Grab a shallot and keep going!
**If you’re making warm bacon dressing to use over another vegetable, omit the chard stems here. The same goes for ramp leaves with the chard leaves; if you are using shallots, add them where you would add the ramp bulbs and stems.