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Spinach Salad with Bourbon Vinaigrette

This recipe was originally featured in chef Edward Lee’s cookbook Smoke + Pickles. We tried it out for Cookbook Club.

for the bourbon vinaigrette:

¼ cup bourbon

¾ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

for the salad:

8 ounces lamb bacon, cut into small cubes

8 ounces spinach

½ cup pecans

1 green apple, cored and cut into matchsticks

1 breakfast radish, sliced into thin rounds

4 ounces Clemson blue cheese or other mild blue cheese, crumbled

For the lamb bacon:

1 cup kosher salt

½ cup sugar

2 pounds lamb bellies (roughly 2 pieces)

1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs

1. To make the vinaigrette: Pour the bourbon into a small saucepan and bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Be careful, because the alcohol in the bourbon could ignite. If that happens, to tamp out the flame, simply put a tight-fitting lid over the pot—the lack of oxygen will suffocate the flame, and you can remove the lid after a few seconds. Boil to reduce the liquid to about 2 tablespoons. Transfer the bourbon to a ramekin and refrigerate until well-chilled.

2. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the reduced bourbon. Keep refrigerated and bring to room temperature when ready to use.

3. To make the salad: Put the lamb bacon in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat just until it becomes crispy on the outside, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain what little fat will render from the bacon.

4. Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl and add the lamb bacon. Toss gently with the bourbon vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Lamb Bacon
1. Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl. Trim the bellies of any loose pieces of fat or sinew and rub the salt-sugar cure all over them. Layer the bellies in a shallow dish with the skin side down, adding some rosemary sprigs between each layer. Sprinkle the extra cure and the last of the rosemary over the top and put in the back of the refrigerator. Leave uncovered for 2 days; the bellies will absorb the salt and leach out liquid.

2. After 2 days, remove the bellies from the cure and discard the rosemary. Rinse the bellies under cold water and transfer to a large tub. Cover with cold water and soak for 2 hours.

3. Light your charcoal grill. Remove the bellies from the water and pat dry on paper towels.

4. Place some soaked wood chips right on top of the hot coals; 2 handfuls of chips should be enough. Once the wood begins to smoke, fit the grill rack over the chips. Scatter another handful of soaked wood chips over the grill rack and place the lamb bellies skin side down over the wood chips. This prevents the bellies from cooking directly on the hot metal grill rack. Cover the grill and smoke the lamb bellies for 2 to 3 hours. Monitor the temperature—it should stay between 160°F and 200°F—and add more wood chips to the hot coals if necessary. The bellies are done when they are slightly blackened; the flavor will be smoky but mild, and the meat will have a little resistance but ultimately will give way in your mouth as you bite into it.

5. Chill the bacon in your refrigerator before slicing it and using it in any dish where you would use pork bacon. To store it, wrap each belly individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month.