Do you get excited like me when you see the word “smoky” in a recipe?
You think, “oooh, smoky, it must have bacon in it.”
Then you read the entire recipe and sometimes end up disappointed: “aww, they just use paprika to make it smoky.”
Well, don’t worry my friends, because this salad starts and ends with bacon. (I did throw in some paprika, too, for good measure.) It also has lots of other goodies, and I have my lunch from Aquitaine to thank for it.
Last weekend, after my chocolate making class (you read that right; more about this soon), my friend Mike and I went to Aquitaine in the South End for a late lunch. It was packed, with a 45 minute wait for two people, but the bar had some empty seats so we parked ourselves there instead.
Besides, sometimes it’s more fun to eat at the bar. Especially for a casual, late lunch. It also helps that the bartender at Aquitaine was incredibly friendly and nice, and later on, two really good looking guys sat beside us. So I would say we enjoyed our lunch, very much.
Mike got the Salmon Benedict – smoked salmon, hollandaise, and potatoes.
And I got the Shrimp Salade Club Sandwich – shrimp salad with smoked bacon, avocado, aioli, bibb lettuce, toasted brioche, and pommes frites. It was basically a glorified BLT with avocado and shrimp, and it hit all the right notes: salty, creamy, crunchy. I really liked it, especially with the aioli.
It was a filling sandwich, and I’m glad we were able to enjoy lunch on the South End, which I don’t go to often enough. We had a nice leisurely lunch at Aquitaine – a weekend kind of meal, kinda like the things Etta James sings about. (Wait that’s not what she meant? Oh well.)
Throughout the week, as my mind usually fills up with thoughts of food, I thought of that sandwich again and planned to recreate it at home. Except, I figured, why not make it a salad? A salad worthy of a weekday and a weekend?
The flavors were based on the original components of the Aquitaine sandwich: shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, bacon. I substituted brussels sprouts for lettuce, Greek yogurt for aioli, warm salad for cold sandwich.
The salad begins and ends with my old friend, bacon. Which means it automatically gets bumped to the top of my favorite salads list.
Warm Smoky Brussels Sprouts Salad
2 slices good quality bacon
1/2 tablespoon olive oil (or use olive oil cooking spray)
16 brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut in half
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 lb cooked shrimp
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 tsp paprika
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it browns and starts to crisp. Remove half of the drippings, and save the bacon for topping the salad later.
Add the brussels sprouts and cook, stirring only a few times, for 5 minutes or until you get some nice char on the halves, and the leaves wilt.
Add the shrimp, tomatoes, and paprika, and cook for another couple of minutes. Turn off heat and add lemon juice. Give everything a quick stir and season with salt and pepper.
Make the salad dressing: combine the Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne powder. Whisk well to a smooth, creamy consistency.
Now crumble the bacon and assemble the salad in a big plate: warm brussels sprouts mix first, top with the dressing, and garnish with the crumbled bacon on top. Generously serves two as a meal or four as a side.
Did this warm salad really need the bacon and the avocado and the creamy Greek yogurt dressing? Probably not, I could’ve just made a dish with brussels sprouts, garlic, tomatoes, and shrimp. But the additional components took the salad over the top. And if you know me in real life, you know I like over the top. I also really like bacon.
What was the last restaurant meal that inspired you to recreate something similar at home?