I recently saw an article in Southern Living that begins, “Killed lettuce is a traditional springtime Appalachian dish.” The article is titled, “Killed Lettuce.” Some people are trying to get above their raisin.’ It’s called “Kilt Lettuce.” I’m interested in traditional dishes, and so decided to post a recipe as a followup to my recent post on Julie Rokala’s Bacon Grease Salad Dressing, and my earlier post on the uses and storage of bacon grease. And it makes for a good side dish.
First, a word on ingredients. Kilt Lettuce traditionally is a springtime dish, made with spring lettuce, ramps, and a hot salad dressing, one that wilts the lettuce. Ramps are wild onions that look a lot like spring onions, and have a bonus flavor — a touch of garlic. Ramps aren’t easy to find. I suppose you could send off for ramp sets and grow your own or, as many do, forage in the lower mountains if you can get the blessing of the property owner. All recipes I’ve seen suggest substituting spring onions.
As that last sentence indicates, I’ve surveyed a number of recipes and will give you the range of ingredients, and you can calibrate the recipe to your taste. Or you can just use the Southern Living recipe. It’s a spring dish traditionally, but, we can get spring foods all year now. As to the choice of ingredients, the Southern Living recipe calls for delicate lettuce — 12 cups, which I’m guessing is what you get in one of those large supermarket boxes. The tender lettuce maximizes the extent to which the lettuce is wilted, or kilt. Some people prefer using mature romaine or iceberg, which wilt reluctantly and give the dish texture. Grilled romaine holds up to heat well and is very good for Caesar salads. Similarly, some recipes call for the ramps or onions to be thinly sliced, while others suggest a rougher chop. This is America, so do as you please.
First, put 8-12 cups of lettuce in your salad bowl. The larger the amount of lettuce, the more of everything.
Add a quarter cup or so of the ramps or spring onions, either finely sliced or roughly chopped as you prefer.
Cook 5 or 6 slices of bacon. You can either cook them whole, or cut them cross-wise into 1/2 inch pieces, remove the cooked bacon, and drain it on paper towels. You want 2 or 3 tablespoons of bacon grease for the dressing. Save any remainder!
Add the cooled bacon — either the half-inch pieces or the strips crumbled — to the salad bowl and add freshly ground salt and black pepper.
Add up to 1 T sugar and 2-4 T of cider or white vinegar, and stir until the sugar dissolves as you heat the mixture to a boil.
Drizzle it over the salad and serve immediately.
I suppose you could imitate the ramp flavor by adding a touch of garlic to the dressing. Some slivered radishes might be nice, and since you’re there next to a cast iron pan that you haven’t yet wiped clean, and if you don’t need it for anything else, like making some corn bread, you might as well fry some eggs and add one to each serving. Let me now if you come up with other variations.
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