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Murder in the Kitchen: “Killing” Your Lettuce Is a Good Way To Make It Taste Delicious

  This mountain technique makes for warm, boldly flavored greens.
By Published Sept. 16, 2022

Have you heard of killed salad (also called “kilt” salad, wilted salad, or smothered lettuce)? It’s a traditional Appalachian side dish. At its simplest, it’s made by pouring hot pork fat over torn fresh lettuce and chopped onions or ramps in order to warm and barely wilt the greens. 

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It’s a delicate balance. In doing it you want to lightly wilt and warm the greens. But you don’t want to go so far as to actually cook them. They should maintain a light crunch and their sweet, mild flavors. 

The Greens

Sturdy yet crunchy greens work best here. 

This recipe often used to be made with greens foraged in the forest. Foraging for food is a big part of Appalachian cooking—it was done to fill out a diet. It’s a tradition that’s carried on today—and not just out of necessity (or, in the case of things like ramps, trendiness). The fact is, this mountain range is dense with wild foods. Many of them are challenging to grow in gardens, which makes them even more prized.

That said, you can make this with plenty of greens available at the grocery store. Our recipe calls for greenleaf lettuce, but escarole and romaine work too. While kale and collards taste delicious drizzled with pork fat, they don’t get the nice wilted balance that a slightly more soft green does. And on the other side of the spectrum, something as tender as bibb lettuce will get too soft with this preparation. 

The Pork

Lots of fatty, cured pork products work here. Bacon is an easy option since it’s readily available. For our recipe, we opted for a ratio of 6 slices of bacon to 1 head of greens (about 12 cups) to flavor the greens. If you want to dress it up with some artisanal bacon, we would support that. 

The Dressing

While killed salad can be as simple as rendered pork fat over greens, many recipes add some sugar and/or an acidic ingredient to add complexity and cut the richness.

After rendering the bacon, we like to add in a splash of apple cider vinegar and a hit of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then pour it over the greens. It gives the dish a bold flavor that’s much more than the sum of its parts. 

All that’s left to do is enjoy—and maybe tell your friends you killed for their dinner!