This salad is one of those dishes that converts even the diehard – “I don’t like fruit in my salad” kinda person.
I made this for Christmas and it was immediately requested again the next day.
Baking the pear transforms into in a soft and delicious starring player in this dish. The salty and aggressive flavor of the Gorgonzola plays beautifully with the sweetness of the pears. The pancetta adds a salty savory note to round out the flavors.
If you’re having trouble finding the Champagne vinegar I highly recommend trying my favorite gourmet foods section… TJ Maxx. I know it’s weird, but trust me here. The good stuff at half the price. Gotta love it!
If you’re having trouble finding hazelnuts, head to the bulk foods section. You won’t be stuck with too much and you’ll pay a heck of a lot less.
From Fine Cooking, October 2010
1 T unsalted butter, melted
2 t mild honey
2 medium firm-ripe red pears, halved lengthwise and cored
8 thin slices pancetta (about 2-1/2 oz.)
1/4 c plus 1 T chopped, toasted hazelnuts
2 oz Gorgonzola dolce (1/4 c)
1/2 t chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2 T Champagne vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. mâche (about 4 cups)
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and 1 tsp. of the honey. Brush the mixture over the cut sides of the pears and season with salt. Arrange the pears cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the upper rack until just tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange the pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the lower rack until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts, the Gorgonzola dolce, thyme, and the remaining 1 tsp. honey with the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the pears from the oven and divide the cheese filling evenly among the pear cavities. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and bake on the upper rack until the cheese starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Turn the broiler on high and broil until the nuts brown slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil. Toss the mâche with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and divide among 4 plates. Top each salad with 2 pancetta rounds and 1 pear half. Season with salt and pepper and serve.