Bacon-Roasted Chickpea Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

It has been quite the week.  But finals are over, I have decompressed for the most part, and I'll start working on my sleep debt tonight.  I cannot express how happy I am to sleep and sleep and sleep, and not care, and wake up and do job work without feeling like I'm neglecting my homework.  And row!  And maybe even read a book!  Or two!  I started A Farewell to Arms a couple weeks ago, but naturally haven't picked it back up yet.  Also, now that I've finished my last formal physical therapy session, I'm allowed to row every other day, and see how that goes.

Oh, and the things I will make next week.  Get ready kids.  Even though it seems that Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity beat me to the punch on baked doughnuts, I've planned on making Marion Cunningham's version from The Breakfast Book, several different yeast breads, Samoas, and chicken pot pie.  I have been craving chicken pot pie all quarter.  I am excited.

I'm terribly excited, also, to share this creation with you, because, well, bacon.  Having been a pescetarian for three and a half years, until the end of last summer, I feel that I appreciate bacon all the more.  With all the meat on this site, you'd think that I would've never survived without it.  But it wasn't really that heartbreaking or difficult - I mean, passing on my dad's ribs, and refusing to eat bacon after much prodding by my brother and company, wasn't easy.  And I cheated once in a while, whether purposefully or accidentally.  But I found that it helped me make better choices about what I was eating.  All the talk about artificial growth hormones, pink slime, and antibiotics also deterred me from eating meat.  It was something I could control.  

Now that I've gone back to the dark side, as a general rule I eat meat if I'm the one who bought and cooked it; and when eating out I tend to choose vegetarian options, especially if I'm worried about meat quality (like at the dining hall).  I do enjoy vegetarian fare, but there are some food experiences that are irreplacable, one of which is bacon.  I rendered a mess of bacon until it had released all of its porky goodness and had become incredibly crisp, then reserved some of the fat for the vinaigrette while the chickpeas roasted in the rest.  The orange segments in the salad and zest in the dressing round out the briny, smoky qualities of the bacon, making for a really lovely combination.  The leftover chickpeas serve as a yummy snack the next day, too.

Bacon-Roasted Chickpea Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette, for two (with leftovers)

1/3 pound bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
29 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
~2 teaspoons dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano, but regular would be fine)
~1 teaspoon smoked paprika
~2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 orange 
1/3 head escarole (or other lettuce of your choosing), chopped
~1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

In a large cast iron skillet, add the oil and chopped bacon, then turn the heat on to medium-low.  Render the bacon at this low heat ~30 minutes.  I know this seems like a long time, but it's the best way to render as much fat from the bacon as possible.  Meanwhile, add the chickpeas into a bowl and season to taste with oregano, paprika, and salt, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Once the bacon has begun to crisp and most of its fat has been rendered, turn the heat up to medium-high and crisp thoroughly.  Remove the bacon pieces and drain them on a paper towel.  Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the fat into a bowl to use for the dressing, leaving ~2 tablespoons in the pan for the chickpeas.  Pour the chickpeas into the skillet, tossing thoroughly in the bacon fat, then roast in the oven for ~30 minutes until golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, zest half of the orange into the bowl of bacon fat.  Cut away the skin and white pith, revealing just the flesh, then cut into segments by running a paring knife at an angle along the membranes that separate the slices.  Once you cut out all the segments, only the membrane and some flesh will remain.  Squeeze this into the bowl, then add a splash of vinegar and sprinkle of salt.  Whisk until emulsified, then adjust seasonings.  Remove the chickpeas from the oven once done, then immediately serve over the escarole with the orange segments and dressing.

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