Fresh eats 

Some of Missoula’s newest restaurants help prepare a heaping holiday feast

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Baby spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, fried pork belly, blue cheese and spiced walnuts

Erin Crobar, Top Hat Lounge

This salad is one of the small plates served daily at the new Top Hat Lounge, and it’s seasonally appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast. The overall theme of this dish, from the spices to the warm bacon vinaigrette, says fall to me.

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters


For the dressing:

13 ounces sherry vinegar

½ cup honey

3 ounces shallot, minced

1 ounce garlic, minced

1.5 ounces ground black pepper

2 cups cooked bacon, crispy and chopped

1 quart canola oil

For the spiced walnuts:

1.5 cups white sugar

½ cup water

½ teaspoon each cinnamon, smoked paprika, kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound walnuts

You’ll also need some bacon or pork belly

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • Cathrine L. Walters


To make the dressing, add all ingredients to blender except for oil and one cup of the bacon. With blender running, slowly drizzle in oil to emulsify. Once well emulsified, add remaining cup of bacon and pulse blender several times to chop up bacon into small pieces. Warm dressing on low before adding to salad.

To make the spiced walnuts, add sugar and water to large skillet, turn heat on high and cook for 10 minutes (use timer) without stirring. Add spices, stir gently, and quickly add walnuts to sugar mixture. Remove from heat, stir nuts vigorously until sugar crystalizes. Dump nuts onto parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet to cool.

Since most people don’t have access to pork belly, a nice thick cut of bacon will work. Cut bacon into small pieces and fry until done.

To assemble the salad, dress the spinach with desired amount of vinaigrette and garnish with fried bacon, blue cheese crumbles and candied walnuts.

Serve and enjoy.

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