Last year for Memorial Day, my husband and I went to The Biltmore Estate for the long weekend. I had been once before, but with my parents, and I was underage. If you're not familiar with the Biltmore Estate, it's a sprawling mansion in Asheville, NC with beautiful gardens, a touristy village, and a winery with dozens of wine for sampling. While we were there, we ate at the Stable Cafe, a restaurant in the small village just outside the actual house (there's also Antler Village, a larger area near the winery). The Stable Cafe is just that, the horse barn and stables. It was completely renovated and each stable is now booth seating. The cuisine is Southern Bistro style, and everything we had was absolutely delicious. My entrée was the Southern Salad, a bed of bibb lettuce with several toppings.
When I was brainstorming this meal, I couldn't get the Southern Salad out of my mind, but changed it a bit to suit my preferences. First, I replaced the housemade Blue Cheese dressing with a Bourbon infused vinaigrette. I chose Evan Williams because it has maple and brown sugar notes, and pairs well with pecans. For the salad, I used the Biltmore's idea and went with fried okra instead of a crouton.
Southern Salad with Bourbon-Pecan-Maple Vinaigrette
adapted from this dressing recipe by Jim Beam
1 tbsp. plus 1/2 c. EVOO
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1/4 c. Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 c. toasted pecans, finely chopped
8 c. Bibb lettuce leaves, torn
1/2 pint Heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hardboiled eggs, quartered
1 c. prepared fried okra nuggets
Optional additions: Cubed cheese (Havarti, Muenster), Shaved or Shredded Chicken or Ham
Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO, shallot and garlic, saute' for 2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add bourbon, and reduce until it forms a thick glaze, about 80-90% of the liquid has cooked off.
Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
When bourbon mixture is at room temperature, add vinegar, maple syrup and mustard, whisk to combine.
In a slow stream, whisk in the EVOO until it emulsifies, about 1/4-1/3 c.
Taste and adjust seasonings, add more EVOO if desired.
Just before serving, toast pecans, chop and add to dressing.
Arrange salad elements, drizzle with 1/4 of the vinaigrette, serve the remainder on the side.