Friday, December 3, 2010

Tradition Keeper - Caramelized Pear, Endive and Radicchio Salad, Walnut-Ice Wine Vinegar Dressing with Blue Cheese Fritters

I'm a softie for traditions. I just love keeping old traditions and enveloping myself in all the fond memories that they represent. But for me traditions should never be static. Every year I want to recreate Mom's stuffing and Gramie's buns, but I also love to add a new recipe every year... Almost as much as I love to invite more and more people every year!

Thanksgiving eve a friend sent this recipe to my cell phone. Thanksgiving evening we prepared the salad with one major change - we simply cubed the roquefort fresh rather than batter dipping it. It's every bit as gorgeous as it sounds.

Apparently there are three different kinds of radicchio and the recipe doesn't specify which kind you need, but we noticed that three grocery stores that we visited only had one kind in stock, so the question never really came up. We bought a big head of green leafy lettuce with lots of nice red and purple leaves. Other radicchio styles will not be green at all, one looks like a white and purple cabbage and the other looks like a white and purple belgian endive. If you choose the white and purple cabbage don't get lazy and forget to grill it. Grilling removes the bitterness from the purple leaf, making it a perfect complement to the pears and endive.

Adventures in cooking...
It's hard to get a salad wrong, so if you don't have ice-wine vinegar use another kind of wine vinegar. If you don't have shallots, leave them out. I think next time I'll plan on more pear-to-salad ratio. But we like big salads so we each took two servings of salad and I had only made enough pears for one serving of pears each.

I served this salad with fois gras on toasts accompanied by a nice fig jam. It was a perfect match, festive for the holidays, also a sweet and salty combination, and it added a source of protein which helped round out the dish creating a full meal.

In my usual fashion, I've posted the shopping list first and then the preparation instructions at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Caramelized Pear, Endive and Radicchio Salad


3 Comice pears
Olive oil, for drizzle
Honey, for drizzle
1 tablespoon allspice
Butter, one pat


3 ounces Roquefort style blue cheese
5 ounces butter, softened
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons Panko style bread crumbs
Cooking oil for deep frying (such as olive or peanut oil)


2 ounces walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons ice wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons walnut oil


1 heads radicchio
3 belgian endives
2 tablespoons olive oil

Peel the pears, cut them in half and trim to remove the seeds. Reserve one uncooked pear to finish the salad, and roast the remaining two. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the two pears cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle pears with olive oil, honey and allspice and top with a small pat of butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Make the blue cheese fritters. Combine cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until soft and fully incorporated. Add Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Form into small balls and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until firm. Once firm, roll the balls between your palms to obtain a perfectly round shape. Dredge balls in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs. The uncooked fritters can be reserved in the refrigerator until ready to fry. To fry, heat enough oil to cover the fritters in a fryer to 375 degrees. Add fritters to the pan and fry until golden brown.

Make the walnut dressing. Toast walnuts in sauté pan for five minutes. Allow to cool, then chop. In a separate bowl, combine honey and ice wine vinegar and mix well. Add minced shallot and walnut oil. Mix with chopped walnuts and salt and pepper to taste.

Wash and dry the radicchio and the belgian endives. Cut radicchio in half and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on hot grill for a couple of minutes on each side. Tear the leaves off of the belgian endive.

Assemble the salad as follows : arrange the belgian endive and radicchio on large plate. Season endive with walnut dressing and arrange around the radicchio. Top with roasted pear and freshly fried fritters. Finish with raw pear shavings.

Thank you Bruno Davaillon and the New York Times that first published this recipe November 9, 2010

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