Deconstructing the BLT: Try this salad as a showcase for bacon ends

Bacon ends are delicious and a great way to enjoy them is in a BLT salad.

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This BLT salad is made with bacon ends, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

This BLT salad is made with bacon ends, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

Lynda Balslev/TasteFood

Shopping tip: If you spy a lumpy bag of bacon ends in the market, buy it. Bacon ends are key to this salad, which essentially takes a classic BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich) and tosses it into a big salad bowl as a deconstructed version of itself. It’s not a vegetarian’s dream, admittedly, but for bacon lovers, it’s heavenly.

You can find bacon ends in vacuum-packed pouches in the deli and meat departments of your market. At first glance, the contents of the hefty packages, jammed with irregular hunks of bacon, are unidentifiable. They are not the neatly fanned bacon slices with which you are familiar. Bacon ends are just that — the hunks and ends of the meat that are trimmed and (gasp) discarded during production of those neatly arranged bacon strips. I am here to tell you that the chunks are revelatory. They are thick and meaty, with lots of pointy edges that will crisp to perfection when cooked.

You can find bacon ends in vacuum-packed pouches in the deli and meat departments of your market. Bacon ends are hunks and ends of the meat that are trimmed and discarded during production of those familiar, neatly arranged bacon strips.

You can find bacon ends in vacuum-packed pouches in the deli and meat departments of your market. Bacon ends are hunks and ends of the meat that are trimmed and discarded during production of those familiar, neatly arranged bacon strips.

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The best way to cook bacon ends is in the oven or on a grill. While the ends cook, their fat renders, leaving behind crispy chunks of pure meaty bacon you can sink your teeth into. The danger is gobbling them all up in one go (speaking from experience, this is not recommended), so you will need to exert a modicum of self-restraint with your crispy bacon ends.

A light and bright way to eat them is in a salad, where they are distributed among layers of fresh and leafy vegetables. This will make you feel righteous and balance out the porky excess. The salad below includes all the fixings of a BLT, including creamy chunks of avocado (which technically make it a BLAT), and croutons brushed with some of the rendered bacon fat. Need I say more?

Another note on sourcing these bacon ends: If you can’t locate a package in your market, ask your butcher or the nice people in the meat department if they have a stash.

BLT Salad With Crispy Bacon Ends and Avocado

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds bacon ends
  • 2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of country or sourdough bread
  • Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:

  • 1 large head red leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 4 small vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 large Hass avocado, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange a rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. (This will capture the bacon fat.)

2. Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the large pieces into bite-size chunks. Arrange the bacon on the rack. Transfer to the oven and roast until the bacon fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the ends to a plate.

3. Brush the bread with some of the rendered fat in the baking pan, then discard parchment with the remaining fat. Spread the bread on the rack. Return the baking sheet and rack to the oven and toast the bread until golden and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.

4. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

5. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bacon, half of the croutons and dressing to your taste and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining croutons and serve with the remaining dressing.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author and recipe developer, and authors the blog TasteFood, More recipes can be found at chicago.suntimes.com/taste.

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