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.
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.