Wine Poached Pear Salad with Toasted Nuts and Port Wine Vinaigrette
An elegant salad sets the tone for the start of your meal. It lets the guests know that you care about every detail.
To achieve perfection in this dish, takes time. But it is worth every minutes spent in carefully preparing the ingredients you will be assembling in the pear salad. Poaching the pears before assembling the salad elevates the flavor and the color.
The first step is to make sure you purchase a drinkable port wine. If it’s not good enough to drink, don’t cook with it. I spent $15 on the bottle I used. I found it at Trader Joe’s in Carlsbad. Pick up a fresh vanilla bean there, as well.
Next find pears that are ripe but still very firm. I learned a trick from a produce manager a few years ago to ripen soft fruits more quickly. For every two pieces of fruit you want to ripen, purchase a green banana. Place the bananas and soft fruit in a paper sack and roll up the sack to remove as much air as possible. Leave for 24 hours, don’t open the sack. The gasses released from the bananas will slightly ripen the soft fruit, naturally. It works!
Choose a pan which can hold the pears in a single layer. You will need to be able to turn them frequently while they are poaching to achieve the color you want for your pear salad. It is okay to poach the pears a day before. You can store them in the spiced port wine in the refrigerator, turn them occasionally to make sure they color evenly.
Here is the recipe:
Wine Poached Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Port Sauce
4 medium pears
2 cups Port Wine
2 cups Spring Water
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 fresh vanilla bean
1 large peel from navel or Valencia orange (reserve the orange for later)
1/2 cup wine reduction
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)
4 medium poached pears
1 small red onion, julienne
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons, unsalted butter
1 cup orange peel, pith removed, julienne
10 ounces snow peas, shelled
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
8 ounces arugula
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup spring water
Peel pears and leave stem intact. In a large saucepan, bring wine and an equal amount of spring water to a simmer. Split the fresh vanilla bean lengthwise and add to wine and water mixture. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange slices. Add pears to liquid and simmer for about 8 minutes or until barely tender. Cool pears in wine mixture to room temperature. You can refrigerate them in the poaching liquid overnight for great color. Turn them frequently to ensure an even color.
After the pears are removed, finish the sauce by bringing wine to a simmer and reduce until the liquid it is 1/4 in total volume. Strain the sauce. Discard the solids. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce, using a small whisk as you are adding the oil. Test the flavor, add additional seasoning or the raw honey to taste.
To prepare the salad, chill the salad plates. Combine the sugar, vinegar and water, divide in half and place in two small bowls. Place the julienned onion in one and julienned orange peel in the other. Let sit for at least an hour. Blot them dry and set side.
In a small nonstick skillet, place the chopped walnuts and a little salt. Heat over medium high, sauté until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium, add the thyme and unsalted butter, continue to sauté for a minute longer. Set aside.
Wash the arugula leaves and blot dry. Set aside.
You are now ready to assemble the salad.
Arrange the plates on your countertop. Place leaves of Arugula on the plate. Thinly slice the pear, arrange over the greens. Place the remaining ingredients top of the pears. Finish with a drizzle of the wine sauce, serve and enjoy.
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