You had me at Bourbon: Melon Salad with Bourbon-Maple Vinaigrette

I have too many magazine subscriptions. My problem isn’t the lack of time to read them (sometimes), but reading in too much detail. All my university textbooks were filled with writing: notes in the margins, underlined things for personal reference, highlighted things for class, doodles based on content, doodles based on nothing at all….you get the point. Karma forbid anyone besides Mr. Right has to share magazines with me, because I have no idea how the hell he puts up with constantly having to look through a horde of sharpie ink to read everything.

I’m one of those girls who gets excited for seasonal changes. No, this doesn’t mean I’m going to trot up to you in Lululemon yoga shorts and an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt to list all my favorite seasonal Starbucks drinks, accessories like legwarmers and headbands, or that I add “<3” to the end of my photos. I have plenty of ladies in my life already doing that so I don’t have to. Just hear me out when I say I’m excited about fall. Pumpkin jargon at Starbucks, boots with legwarmers, and headbands that cover my ears have all been established. Right now, I’m talking about maple syrup.

I’m also talking about bridging the weird gap between summer and fall by incorporating fruit into a plate of food with maple syrup. Oh, and bourbon. When the temperature drops outside, I can’t get enough of bourbon. Okay, let’s be real, I can’t get enough of bourbon at any time of the year. I digress.

Make this and savor the in-between (the liminal, for my friends from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures.) Halloween is coming up too fast (at least according to my Martha Stewart magazine that just came in the mail), and this middle ground is going to be happening until then.

Melon Salad with Bourbon-Maple Vinaigrette

For the Pecans:

  • 1/2 cup pecans (duh)
  • 1 slice thick cut double smoked bacon – diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • A few healthy dashes of Old Bay Spice or Emeril’s Essence seasoning. (No, this is not a plug for Emeril. The market was out of Old Bay.)

For the Salad:

  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bunch green onions – finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cantaloupe – peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Turn an oven to 350 and spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast them up for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and delicious.

(Bonus Point: I got this tip from Giada de Laurentiis via Twitter, and haven’t looked back. I’m also going to keep mentioning this until you try it for yourself. If you sprinkle a dash of ground cinnamon over the bacon in the pan while the fat is rendering out…..holy cow. If you didn’t think bacon could get more delicious. Oh man….I just…..Think again. Okay?)

When the bacon is browned (hopefully you’ve decided to take my advice about the cinnamon), add the maple syrup and vinegar portions from the pecan ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick (2 -3 is h minutes.)

Take the pan off the heat – no one likes burned bacon.

Stir in the pecans and Old Bay/Emeril’s Essence and spread on the baking sheet to cool.

These will also make your entire kitchen/dining/living room area smell like some sort of cracked out orchard. Delicious.

Simmer the bourbon portion from the salad ingredients over medium low heat. Let this reduce to about one-third of its side (3-4 minutes? Maybe longer. You judge.) Next, whisk in the maple syrup and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Let this reduce to about one-half of its size (3 minutes ish, pending on how hot the pan is.)

Remove from heat, stir in the green onion, and let cool before whisking in the thyme, salt, and oil.

To plate this up, sprinkle the melon with salt to taste, spoon the bourbon glaze over the top, and sprinkle with pecans and cilantro.

And okay, if you want to drink a pumpkin spice latte while eating this, I won’t stop you.

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