~ My Roasted Beet, Candied Bacon, Shaved Onion & Creamy-Dreamy Horseradish-Dressed Steak Salad ~
Last Wednesday, one of my readers and long-time friend asked if I would try to duplicate a salad she had just eaten at a downtown Happy Valley restaurant. Elaine's words were: "I was at The Allen Street Grill last Sunday and had their featured salad which was really wonderful. It contained Spring mix that was tossed with a creamy horseradish dressing and also featured cooked red beets. It was so yummy that I'm dying to replicate it. Mel, do you have any idea how that dressing might have been made? I'd also be very appreciative of any additions to the salad that you'd like to suggest!"
This is the sort of request I like to think brings out the best in me. Having eaten in a lot of places all over the world, some of the best meals I have ever served to my family and friends are the result of my desire to duplicate or create a version of a restaurant recipe in my home kitchen. However, this circumstance is/was a bit different because I didn't even taste the salad, my friend Elaine did. On a side note, being a girl of Russian heritage, I can tell you these are ingredients that are very familiar to me: greens, cooked beets and horseradish... they go hand-in-hand together. So, without tasting the salad, I was pretty sure I could take these ingredients out of my "Chopped" basket and make them work!
That being said, before getting started, I did call The Allen Street Grill and the chef's wife Becky was most helpful. Via her husband she relayed to me there was mayonnaise, sour cream, chives and prepared horseradish, all to taste, in the dressing. When developing a recipe, this is valuable information, and I am most appreciative for their helpfulness!
I took the above photograph of an original oil painting that hangs in our downstairs "Penn State Room and Melanie's Penn State Kitchen". The Hotel State College, located at the corner of College Avenue and South Allen Street directly across the street from our town's walk-in entrance to PSU, houses The Corner Room Restaurant at street level and The Allen Street Grill directly above. From a restaurant standpoint, this is indeed our town's most famous landmark, and I am pleased to tell you that my grandson David's great-grandfather worked at "The Corner" when he attended Penn State back in the early 1940's!
Now, back to Elaine's salad. I had a lot of fun coming up with my ultimate version of a salad I never actually tasted. Below, you are going to find my instructions for roasting beets, making candied bacon and, of course, the creamy dressing, which is what Elaine wanted in the first place. Trust me when I tell you: this is all really, really easy. Feel free to make this salad my way or create your own version using any or all of these "mini-recipes". As for the steak, I could hear the beets, bacon and horseradish crying out to me for filet. Feel free to prepare any cut of steak, any way you want, however, my recipe for a perfectly-cooked, pan-seared filet, ~ T.G.I.Five-Minute Filet Mignon ~, can be found in Categories 3, 20 or 21. "Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by meat." ~ Fran Lebowitz
PART ONE: Creamy-Dreamy Horseradish Dressing
Make the dressing first because it is at its best if made a day ahead of serving. Looks like a lot of ingredients? Not. Mayonnaise, sour cream, prepared horseradish and chives all go into the food processor (or blender) with some flavorful spices and a splash of lemon juice. Just add buttermilk to reach the desired consistency!
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup prepared horseradish
1/4 cup thinly sliced, fresh chives
1 teaspoon each: dried, minced garlic and dried, minced onion
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder and onion powder
1 tablespoon dried mint or parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon each: celery salt and white pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice, preferably fresh, or bottled concentrate
1/2 cup buttermilk, slightly more or less, to reach desired consistency
1/4 cup additional thinly sliced chives, for garnishing finished salad
freshly ground black pepper or peppercorn blend, for topping finished salad
~ Step 1. Place all of the ingredients, except for the buttermilk in the work bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with the steel blade. Process, until thoroughly combined, about 15-20 rapid, on-off pulses.
PART TWO: Roasted Red Beets
I grew up in a family where red beets were not a misunderstood vegetable. Roasting makes them super-sweet and nutty tasting, not to mention so much better than anything that comes out of a store-bought can or a jar. That being said, I do roast, pickle and can my own beets (adding a cinnamon stick and some allspice to the brine), and they work beautifully in this salad too. Here is my super-easy, mess-free method for roasting beets:
Note: You can cook beet greens like Swiss chard or spinach, or you can just discard them, that choice is yours. Also, when you buy beets in the store, you'll notice they usually come three to a bunch. Because I like to handle beets as little as possible, I leave them in their original bunch, rinse them under water and pat them dry with a paper towel. I place each bunch on a sheet of aluminum foil (see below) and snip off the greens without ever having touched them. You can thank me later!
~ Step 2. Place three beets inside of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Seal the foil. Place desired number of packets of beets in a baking pan and roast on center rack of preheated 425 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 30- 60 minutes.
Note: One bunch of three beets and 2 tablespoons of olive oil is all you'll need to prepare this salad recipe, however, I'm making two bunches, because I want leftovers tomorrow!
~ Step 3. When beets are cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, using a paring knife, trim off the top and tail ends. Using a vegetable peeler, paring knife or just your fingertips, peel the skin away. You can wear latex gloves if you like (to keep your fingers from turning pink) but I do not not.
PART THREE: Oven-Roasted, Cinnamon & Clove-Kissed Candied Bacon
1 1/2 pounds thick-sliced bacon, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups lightly-packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
~ Step 2. Three-four slices at a time, dredge one-side of the bacon in the sugar mixture. Flip slices over and dredge second sides.
~ Step 3 and 4. Arrange the bacon, side-by-side, on two 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum pans, the kind with the corrugated bottoms. Six-eight slices of bacon will fit nicely on each pan. Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 30-35 minutes, until desired degree of doneness is reached. Remove from oven, drain excess fat from pans and set aside.
~ Step 5. When the bacon is completely cool, you can transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate. If you are layering it on the plate, separate the layers with paper towels. The bacon can be made several hours in advance, or even the night before, just do not cover or refrigerate it!
If you thought everything tastes better with bacon, just wait until you try candied bacon!!!
Note: The hicory-smoked thick-sliced bacon I buy at Sam's Club comes in 1 1/2-pound packages and I always roast/candy it all. In case you didn't know: there is no such thing as leftover candied bacon!
PART FOUR: Assemble the Salad
10 cups of Spring greens (5 ounces)
2 cups of baby arugula leaves
On a large plate or platter, layer the Spring greens, followed by the arugula leaves. Evenly distribute the shaved onion, followed by the candied bacon over the top.
Just prior to serving the salad, distribute about 2 cups of chilled beets over the top. Generously drizzle with horseradish dressing and garnish with the additional chopped chives:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen shears; aluminum foil; paring knife; vegetable peeler; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 2, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms; paper towels
Cook's Note: Once again, while this post might look long and difficult, nothing could be farther from the truth. The dressing, the beets and the bacon each take less than 5 minutes of quick and easy prep. Even the filet pan-sears in five minutes!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)