This is a story about how one thing leads to another and produces an unexpected result. I made two amazing culinary discoveries recently. The first was a wasabi cream sauce that was served over grilled salmon, which I had been planning on trying at home. That was realistic since I’ve been harboring an unopened can of wasabi powder in my pantry for longer than I want to admit. (Wasabi is a pale green Japanese horseradish usually served with sushi and sashimi.)
The second discovery was duck bacon. In response to the ingredients in this month’s Paper Chef challenge (wasabi, duck, tomatoes, and cream – yikes), I was cruising the grocery aisle looking for duck… maybe a breast of duck or a leg confit. Actually, neither appealed to me, not only because of the high price but also, my family doesn’t much like duck. Duck in our local store is fortuitously located next to the better varieties of bacon. So there it was: duck bacon. D’Artagnan uncured smoked duck bacon. Lean meat with a little stripe of fat. A healthier alternative to the usual pork bacon. Having no idea what I would do with it for Paper Chef, it still seemed better than the other two duck options.
I had wanted bacon anyway because I had an armload of dandelion greens from the farmers’ market and I craved a salad of wilted greens. Normally, I buy bacon in small quantities from the butcher’s counter since a package would seem like a lifetime’s supply and wouldn’t keep that long. Planning on serving the bacon-wilted greens with salmon and a stab at wasabi cream sauce, the light went on in the kitchen: why not lightly wilt the greens with the vinegary bacon dressing and add a thin coat of wasabi cream? Better than ranch!
The wilted salad of dandelion greens and halved grape tomatoes tossed with wasabi cream and duck bacon was so delicious that I made it again the next day with the freshest kale from the farmers’ market. It would also be good with curly endive or spinach. Traditionally, wilted green salad includes onion sautéed in the bacon fat. It adds another dimension so I included it in the recipe as an option.
Wilted Greens with Wasabi Cream and Duck Bacon
Handful of washed greens, torn into pieces (dandelion, kale, curly endive, or spinach)
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Warm bacon dressing (for 2 servings)
2 slices duck bacon
Minced onions or shallots (optional)
1-3 tsp white wine or cider vinegar (depending on the fat yield)
Pinch of brown sugar (or white granulated sugar)
Wasabi cream (need about 1 tbsp for a salad for two; this allows leftovers)
¼ c light sour cream
2-3 tsp wasabi powder, made into a paste by adding 1 ½ tsp water
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp brown sugar
Assemble the greens in a serving bowl since you will want to serve this immediately after dressing it. Mix the tomatoes in a small bowl with a little wasabi cream and set aside. (If the tomatoes are sad, you can spruce them with a little olive oil and salt before adding the cream.)
Make the warm dressing. Render the fat from the bacon over low heat. Remove the bacon to drain and add a little vinegar and sugar to the pan. (If adding onions, soften them in the fat before adding the vinegar.) Pour the warm mixture over the greens and toss to coat.
Toss with a little wasabi cream and garnish with the reserved tomatoes and the bacon, cut into pieces (this is lower in fat than pork bacon so it doesn’t crumble). Serve immediately.