While I love bacon dressing, my husband isn't a fan and our vegetarian friends can't partake, so I wanted to make an equally delectable warm vinaigrette to toss with an easy spinach salad. The result of using brown butter instead of bacon fat is a salad that's worth making again and again.
For this quick side dish, I kept the classic spinach salad as the base because it holds up so well to the temperature of the dressing. The leaves soften ever-so-slightly without truly wilting. I added tangy pickled onions, briny Pecorino, and toasted pecans.
The vinaigrette itself has depth and nuttiness from the brown butter, plus a zing of balsamic and some sharpness from Dijon mustard. I love how the vinaigrette brings this particular salad together, but I'm also looking forward to trying it on other sturdy salads, like ones with kale or farro. I think it has bacon dressing beat for this reason — it has that same unctuousness, but more adaptability in application.
Spinach Salad with Warm Brown Butter Dressing
1/2 pound baby spinach (about 5 cups)
1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1/8 cup pickled red onions (get the recipe)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the cheese, pecans, and pickled onion.
Heat the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, begin whisking and continue cooking until it becomes light brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar until emulsified.
Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad, toss to combine, and serve immediately.
- To gauge when the butter is properly browned, I go more by aroma than color. Once my kitchen fills with that deliciously nutty scent, I know it's ready.
- I'm partial to balsamic, but other vinegars, like red wine and sherry, work in the recipe too.