Food52's Not-Too-Virtuous Salad with Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

Food52's Not-Too-Virtuous Salad with Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

[Photograph: Sarah Shatz]

If you make anything from the new Food52 Cookbook, make the Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette that dresses this Not-Too-Virtuous Salad. Yes, the salad itself is wonderful (with crisp bacon, crunchy apples, and earthy strips of celery root tucked inside, how could it not be?), but this vinaigrette is more than a little bit magic.

In wanderash's winning Best Salad with Apples, she sautes a diced Gala apple in a bracing apple cider vinegar and brown sugar caramel sauce before blending it to submission with garlic, thyme, lemon juice, and a generous pour of both olive and canola oil. The result is a creamy, sweet-savory celebration of the humble apple. It is both richly comforting and brightly fragrant enough to warrant meals upon meals based around this elixir.

Why I picked this recipe: For an elegant, colorful holiday salad, I couldn't say no to this bacon-apple combo.

What worked: As a whole, the salad is balanced and comforting, but the real winner here is the caramelized apple vinaigrette.

What didn't: Wouldn't change a thing...

Suggested Tweaks: ...but if you wanted to feed a family of vegetarians, you could leave out the bacon.

Reprinted with permission from The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merill Stubbs, copyright 2012. Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

  • Yield:serves 4 to 6
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, or as needed
  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 1 Gala apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Salad
  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch lardons (1/2-inch-long strips)
  • 4 big handfuls mixed greens (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/4 celery root, peeled and very thinly sliced or cut into matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, and very thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1 tart apple, cored, halved, and thinly sliced


  1. 1.

    To make the dressing: Combine 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and the brown sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat. Stir and cook until the mixture turns a dark caramel color and begins to thicken. You will start to see big foamy bubbles on the surface. Add the apples and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Remove from the heat and put in a blender, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, the thyme, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Whoosh until blended. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the oil, blending until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and season with salt and perhaps a splash more vinegar.

  3. 3.

    Meanwhile, make the salad: Cook the lardons in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

  4. 4.

    Combine the lardons and the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour 1/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss well. Taste a piece of lettuce and add more dressing if you like. (Reserve the rest of the dressing for another delicious use.)