Wilted Lettuce Salad

I just sent in my monthly column for my (Atlanta) neighborhood newsletter, The Leafletanother excuse for neglecting this poor blog. In it, I offered a recipe for wilted lettuce salad, one of those old-fashioned dishes that flies in the face of modern sensibilities. It’s basically hot bacon fat poured over fresh lettuce.

What puzzles me now is where the heck this recipe came from. I had thought, given the bacon fat, that it originated in southern Appalachia–from some woman like my grandmother who needed to spruce up the spring lettuce, looked at the bacon drippings in the jar next to the stove, and thought it would be a good combination. But in poking around on the Internet, I’ve found it mentioned from folks who’d eaten it in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

I’ll just have to keep looking. I wonder if they teach these kinds of things in cooking school?

Wilted Lettuce Salad

For two people: Tear 2 – 3 cups Romaine lettuce into one to two-inch pieces, including spine. Slice two scallions (include some of the green section.) Place in serving bowls. Fry four pieces of bacon in skillet until very crisp. Remove bacon from skillet and place on papertowels to drain. Drizzle hot bacon fat over lettuce, stirring frequently, to coat lightly. Salt generously. Top with crumbled bacon and serve immediately.

Variation: Add ¼ cup vinegar and 2 tbps. sugar to bacon fat. Heatuntil mixture just reaches the boil and pour over lettuce.

World’s Worst Wine–and Great Fish

In March 2007, Julia Moskin reported in the New York Times that cheap wine worked just as well as expensive wine in recipes where the wine is cooked. Last night, I put this theory to the test with what is easily the World’s Worst White Wine, pictured below.

Fred received this as a gift from a Hungarian acquaintance about two years ago. It tastes like a cross between apple cider vinegar and Blue Nun Riesling. It has been sitting in our refrigerator, opened and unloved, for approximately a year.

(Please don’t ask me why I kept it. I can’t explain it. It’s the same impulse that causes me to save soap from hotel showers while I spend $30 for a bowl of cereal and coffee in the restaurant.)

Thank goodness I hung on to it. Last night I took a risk and poached some beautiful trout in the contents of our underappreciated friend. The result was tender, flaky fish in a light, balanced, sauce, with no trace of either vinegar or Blue Nun. Even better, we got to drink more of  the expensive bottle we received as a wedding gift.

Look at how our dear old companion, the longtime tenant of our refrigerator, hovers proudly over his creation:

Poached Fish in White Wine 2007 2

(Don’t tell him that I think a big part of the success was the fresh-squeezed lemon juice).

Here is the recipe. My new motto: Cook with crappy wine!

Trout Poached in White Wine and Herbs (serves 4)

4 large trout filets
1/2 stick butter
2 onions, thinly sliced and divided into rings
2 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
2 tbsp. parsley (I cheated and used dried)
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
3/4 cup white wine (really, any kind will do!!)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Melt butter on low heat in large skillet. Turn heat to medium, add 1/2 of onions and saute until translucent. Put trout filets over onions (they can overlap a little). Generously salt filets. Place remaining onion, chives, parsley, and peppercorns over fish. Bury bay leaves between filets. Mix together wine and lemon juice and pour over fish. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boil, uncovered, then reduce heat to medium low. Continue to simmer, covered, until fish is just cooked–check after 5 minutes and continue checking every 1-2 minutes.

Here is a photo of the trout happily sauteing in the pan:

Poached Fish in White Wine 2007

We served this with a salad of baby greens and raw kale. It’s very quick and a nice side for the fish. This amount would make a small side salad for 4 people–increase amounts if you would like more.


1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. brown mustard
1/4 tsp. salt

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over:

2 cups baby greens
2 cups raw kale, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces

Top with:
1/2 c. fresh grated Parmesan

Toss, salt to taste, and serve.