Every week, our test kitchen team pays an early morning visit to New York City’s biggest farmers market: the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. Comprised of over 70 stalls bursting with flowers, local products, and beautiful seasonal produce, it’s the perfect place for a hit of mid-week inspiration. Follow us on Instagram to tag along (bring a tote bag, it’s impossible to leave empty handed!) and see what we decide to make with our market haul.
We understand how this looks. Of all of the bright and juicy late summer produce to choose from at the greenmarket, we went with bacon? But hear us out: thicker cut and with a serious layer of fat, farmers’ market bacon cooks up to the platonic ideal of the breakfast food, both melt-in-your-mouth crispy and meatily chewy at once. It definitely costs more than your average supermarket brand, making it an “every once and a while” treat, but when you are looking to splurge, it’s a worthwhile way to spend your market cash — and certainly warrants being the centerpiece of a dish.
This recipe uses bacon two ways: first, crisped in the oven and crumbled to scatter over the salad, and second (and this is where the extra fat from the farmers’ market variety comes in handy), to bake up a batch of golden brown croutons. Cooking bacon on a wire rack set on a rimmed sheet pan means the bacon stays crispy while the rendered fat drips down below. We toss torn pieces of crusty bread (and a grated garlic clove, for bite) in that reserved fat to evenly coat each piece before tossing the pan back into the oven. The result is a crisp and crunchy crouton with a subtle salty, savory flavor, ready to soak up any juices from the bursting September tomatoes we tossed over the salad (see, we managed to get some seasonal produce in there!).
BLT Salad with Grilled Romaine & Bacon Fat Croutons
Special equipment: grill or grill pan, wire rack
2 heads romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise through the core
8 slices bacon
½ pint (about 1 cup) cherry tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp buttermilk
2 tbsp mayonnaise
3 oz blue cheese, divided
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch chives, thinly sliced
3-4 slices crusty bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Roast the bacon:
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 450°F. Fit a wire rack into a rimmed sheet pan. Place the bacon slices on the prepared sheet pan. Roast 14 to 16 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Leaving the oven on, remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon into small pieces. Remove the wire rack from the sheet pan, reserving the bacon fat in the pan.
2. Toast the croutons:
To the pan of reserved bacon fat, add the torn bread and garlic paste; season with salt and pepper (add a drizzle of olive oil if the pan seems dry). Toss to coat. Arrange in an even layer. Toast in the oven 6 to 8 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven.
3. Grill the lettuce:
While the croutons toast, heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat; lightly oil the grates. Drizzle the cut side of the halved heads of lettuce with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, cut side down, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly charred. Transfer to a plate.
4. Make the dressing:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, mayonnaise, 2 oz blue cheese, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Assemble the salad & serve your dish:
Spoon half the dressing onto a platter; spread into an even layer. Place the grilled lettuce on the dressing, grilled side up. Top with half the tomatoes, half the crumbled bacon, and half the croutons. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Garnish with the remaining tomatoes, remaining crumbled bacon, remaining croutons, remaining blue cheese (crumbling before adding), and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!