Caramel is just sugar that’s being pushed to it’s breaking point on the verge of burning and in that tipping point of destruction, something so simple becomes a thing of beauty. This is my favorite thing about cooking — twisting and contorting elements until they transform into a completely different and heightened form. Now, if I could only put that line of thought into a workout routine, I’d have it all. But considering every day is a struggle with the ADD beast, the fact I can put on two matching socks and walk out the door on time is a miracle.
What was I talking about? Oh yes, transformation. Someone once told me to take every fitting opportunity, no matter how difficult and terrifying, because out of challenge is growth. A path to transforming into the very best you, so to speak. Lately, since I’ve turned down all work for the remaining year to work on the cookbook, I have to remind myself this every waking moment of every day. I struggle with comfort. It’s so easy for me to fall into a pattern: wake up early, feed everyone, get everyone out the door, eat breakfast, clean the house, answer emails, work, cook dinner, go to bed. For me, this reputation can quickly turn into depression and forcing myself to break out of that can be the most terrifying throat-clinching thing to do. So here I sit, climbing out of another strand of repetition and forcing myself to add a few little tweaks to every day. Taking a cookbook deal is certainly spicing things up, tomorrow is my first yoga class in years, and then I’m hitting the Asian food markets in search of out of season blue crab.
Roasted Pear and Roquefort Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette and Caramel
Speaking of cooking, I somehow thought it would be a fabulous idea to create a caramel vinaigrette. It hasn’t worked out as I have planned yet but in my frustration I created this salad the other day with all of the flavors I was contemplating. Sweet roasted pear and soft blue cheese with caramel on a bed of shaved fennel and greens tossed with a champagne vinaigrette was an absolute thing of beauty. I was able to grab a few quick photos so I could share it here before serving it to a full house that adored it. It’s simple to make (the caramel, vinaigrette and roasted pears can all be made in advance) and would be a great lunch or first course at a fall dinner party. The flavors of sweet, salt, savory, bitter, and bright come together for a distinctively delicious plate that we just can’t stop making. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Cheers!
We found that the best pairing for this salad is Gewurtztraminer, an aromatic off-dry white. Pinot Blanc, Resiling, Torrontes, or a Chenin Blanc demi-sec would also work.
Sweet roasted pear and soft blue cheese with caramel on a bed of shaved fennel and greens tossed with a champagne vinaigrette is a delicious salad with layers of flavor.
- 2 Bartlett pears
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Pinch salt and pepper
- 4 cups salad greens, such as mesclun, arugula, baby spinach, frisée, or red leaf
- 1 small fennel bulb, sliced thin
- 4 ounces Roquefort cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Slice pears in two and with a mellon baller or small spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Place pear halves on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pears.
- Pour sugar and water in a sauce pot. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat and swirl (don’t stir with a spoon) the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Without stirring, let simmer until the color changes to light brown, about 5 to 8 minutes, then turn off heat. Slowly stir in cream until combined. Add salt and stir until smooth. Set aside until needed. If caramel becomes too thick before serving, simply reheat it over low heat until fluid.
- In a blender, combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until emulsified. Alternatively you can do this by hand by whisking vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper together until combined and then slowly adding olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, combine salad greens, fennel, and champagne vinaigrette; toss until salad is coated with vinaigrette.
- You can serve this two ways: (1) Plate salad, then add a roasted pear half, an ounce of blue cheese, and a spoonful of caramel sauce or (2) Slice the roasted pears and add them to the salad greens along with crumbled blue cheese in a large bowl; toss to combine. Plate and drizzle caramel over the entire salad.
The caramel, vinaigrette, and roasted pears can all be made 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.