Travis Milton, executive chef at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, Virginia, was raised on this salad. In his family it was called Killed Lettuce salad because “you ‘kill’ the lettuce by pouring hot fat over the greens.” Making it is a sensory experience, with the hot bacon fat crackling joyfully as it’s poured over the vinegar-drenched greens. For the optimal crispy-chewy texture, consider buying slab bacon instead of thick-cut slices and chopping it into robust nubbins yourself. There will be a pool of very tasty liquid at the bottom of the salad bowl. Sop it up with cornbread as Milton does.
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bunch Swiss chard (about 8 oz.), preferably rainbow
bunch curly kale (about 7 oz.), ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
bunch watercress (about 7 oz.), tough stems trimmed
spring onions or 12 scallions, thinly sliced
lb. thick-cut bacon (7–10 slices), cut into 1″ pieces
Vegetable oil (optional)
cup apple cider vinegar
tsp. freshly ground pepper
tsp. flaky sea salt
Remove ribs and stems from 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 8 oz.) and thinly slice. Tear leaves into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl; add 1 bunch curly kale (about 7 oz.), ribs and stems removed, leaves torn, 1 bunch watercress (about 7 oz.), tough stems trimmed, and 8 spring onions or 12 scallions, thinly sliced, and toss to combine.
Cook 1 lb. thick-cut bacon (7–10 slices), cut into 1″ pieces, in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until browned and mostly crisp, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a small plate. Carefully pour fat into a heatproof measuring cup (you should have ¾ cup; make up the difference with vegetable oil if needed). Return fat to skillet; heat over medium until just beginning to smoke, 6–8 minutes.
Meanwhile, add ¾ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, 1½ tsp. flaky sea salt, and half of cooked bacon to bowl with greens and toss to combine.
Carefully pour fat over salad (it will sizzle dramatically so stand back slightly to avoid any splatter); toss with tongs to coat. Top with remaining bacon.