Wilted Watercress Salad with Bacon Dressing

Old fashioned watercress is getting harder to come by, at least around here in Sacramento. Whole Foods carries watercress, but the leaves are too tender, and lack the bite of what I grew up eating. This is my mother’s recipe for a wilted watercress salad with a warm, sweet and sour bacon dressing. It requires the sturdy watercress variety which can hold up to both the heat and the flavor of the dressing. I love this salad. It’s like a wilted spinach salad, only less wilted, and more peppery. In my father’s and my opinion, it really must be made with bacon fat and crumbled bacon. You can substitute olive oil, but it’s really not the same.

Watercress

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Wilted Watercress Salad with Bacon Dressing Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches watercress (Try to get mature watercress as shown in the photo, not the baby watercress that Whole Foods carries. It will hold up better to the hot dressing.)
  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of ground mustard
  • A pinch of paprika (sweet)

 

Method

1 Rinse thoroughly the watercress, removing old leaves and thick stems. Set aside in a serving bowl.

2 Heat a small stick-free pan on medium heat and cook the bacon until done, several minutes on each side. Remove the bacon from the pan and put on a paper towel. Keep the bacon fat in the pan.

3 Add the cider vinegar and sugar to the bacon fat. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a pinch of ground mustard and a pinch of paprika. Taste and adjust seasoning. This is a sweet-sour dressing, so if it is too acidic, add a bit more sugar, if too sweet, add a bit more vinegar.

4 Bring the dressing to a simmer. Pour over the watercress. Crumble the bacon over the top. Toss and serve.

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Links:

Watercress Salad with Kumquat Dressing from Brooklyn Supper

Salmon, Asparagus, Watercress Salad from Aida Mollenkamp

18 Comments

  1. Brett

    When I was a kid in the Arkansas Ozarks, we used to go pull huge bunches of watercress out of the creeks and munch on it while we played. I didn’t know until I was a grown-up that it is gourmet fare!

  2. Alice

    If there’s an Asian grocery store nearby, you can probably find good, cheap watercress year round.

  3. soozer

    Try one of your local asian markets for watercress. Not only will it probably be organic and fresher, but will probably be 1/2 the price of Whole Foods!

  4. nava

    Hi, first of all, thanks for the salad recipe, tempting as usual. Also, congratulation on becoming the 2006 best food blog-overall. You defenitely deserve it. As a non-blogger and a professional blog-reader, your food-blog is the first weblog I check every morning before starting my work as a biochemist! Congrats and looking forward to more useful recipes, beautiful photos and friendly posts…

  5. Rachel

    Elise,
    I would like to second nava’s comment…among my favorite recipes are:
    brussels sprouts with almonds and onions
    onion quiche
    greek salad
    mollasses cookies
    Blueberry Buckle

    …and SO much more that I love or am itching to try!
    Have you thought about doing a ‘Favorites’ post, in which you list your all-time favorite blogged-about recipes? I can’t wait to read that one. :-)

  6. Cris

    Elise, what an easy treat and it seems soo yummy. I think we can get two kinds of watercress here, the real watercress and the one you can plant in your garden. The garden type is not too tender. This recipe might work good with swiss chard too.

  7. Trig

    I usually use nutmeg but I’ll try the paprika and mustard.

  8. Trig

    Sorry Elise – shoot me – congratulations on your win!

  9. Vivian

    You can use this dressing with curly endive or any other sturdy, bitter greens with wonderful results!

    Congrats on your ‘Best Food Blog – Overall’ win, you deserve it!

  10. eyespot

    OOOHHHH!! How lucky we are to have a watercress laden creek run through our property! This dressing will be perfect and I can’t wait to try it. Thank you!

  11. Garrett

    Hmm, sounds yummy. I really have been hungering for something mustardy the past few days.

  12. MeltingWok

    Hi Elise,
    Usually I’d cook watercress soup with figs, wolfberries & chinese dried longan. I’ll definitely try this watercress salad, very refreshing indeed :)

  13. Susan at Food "Blogga"

    Ah! I read this blog earlier in the week, and now today there was fresh watercress at my Farmers’ Market. I’m going to try this today (sorry to disappoint your dad, but no bacon for me…). Thanks again Elise.

  14. Jose Martinez

    We like it like with Olive Oil and salt. That’s all. Not too much oil cause will washout the salt. Just clean the watercress in very salty water. Put a lot of salt on the water to rinse the watercress. Rinse it only once. Taste leaves to make sure it is fairly salty. Then add the olive oil, a bit of olive oil will go a long way. Avoid too much olive oil, it will washout the salt.

    Good luck.

  15. Annie

    Just found a creek full of watercress and pulled me a mess for dinner tonight. Had it in the creek on our East Tennesssee Farm and always had wilted watercress in the spring until it bloomed. Found your recipe using google to remind me of how Mother fixed it. Very similar to the one you wrote. Can’t wait until tonight. Actually can’t imagine having to buy watercress.

  16. JMarie

    I bought a pound of swiss chard for $1 from a gardener with no clue what I would do with it. I ended up trying this recipe, and it was *wonderful*! Unfortunately, my boyfriend is super sensitive to both bitter and vinegar flavors, so he couldn’t eat it. I didn’t think the bitter or vinegar flavors were pronounced at all, though; it was a very nice blend of flavors. I can’t wait to make this for my dad!

  17. At Home with Kim Vallee

    Watercress is my favorite green. I crave for the true taste – not the washed out flavor version. Like Alice, I buy mine year long at an Asian Fruit and Vegetable store.

    I often eat mine with slices of red peppers and anchovies with the classic Dijon mustard French dressing.

  18. Diane

    Thanks for this recipe. I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and am trying very hard to eat healthy. I can’t wait to try this salad but unfortunately I won’t be using bacon as much as I do love it. Thanks again for sharing.

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