Sweet, firm pears, pan-seared and napped with a warm Applejack vinaigrette on a bed of slightly wilted greens, contrasted with salty, toasted Cotija cheese and finished with spiced pecans.
Yum! Doesn’t that sound like salad perfection?! My readers know by now that my most favorite dish to create is interesting salads, to me it’s all about pairing seasonal flavors and textures for a sensational taste experience.
The best salads are usually those that focus on a few key ingredients, for this lovely dish I began with the firm, ripe pears. In the cooler months a variety of pears are available, choose firm pears that are not over-ripe such a Bartlett, Comice or Anjou.
My favorite salad pear is the Bartlett, the firm texture holds up to the pan-searing which intensifies the flavor complimented by a warm Applejack Vinaigrette.
Holman’s Applejack, Reviving a 100 Year Recipe
One of the rewards of seeking out great foods as a food blogger is happening upon artisans making extraordinary things. John Holman, at Holman Distillery in Moravian Falls in North Carolina, has achieved something quite extraordinary with his range of applejack brandy made with a recipe lost to production for over 100 years
Most households would have a barrel of hard apple cider home-brewed, low in alcohol and safer to drink than water, and cheaper than beer it was an easy to make naturally fermented homebrew. The tradition for Applejack came when the barrels would freeze in the winter, the icy layer lifted off the top of the barrel yielded the deep flavored Apple Jack concentrate.
The flavor of this beverage is quite unlike anything I have ever tasted, great to sip icy cold, and with some experimentation delicious as a warm Applejack Vinaigrette and to add a special flavor to your holiday gravy and dessert sauce.
Sweet and salty are the perfect flavor balancers, and salty Cojita cheese, pan-seared to a crispy edge is just the ticket. Cojita cheese is a Mexican cheese similar to feta, but a little saltier and holds up well yo the pan searing.
The last touch, pecans toasted with pumpkin pie spices, you’re going to want to make a whole pan of these to snack on!
I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe!
Pan-Roasted Pear & Cotija Cheese Salad with Warm Applejack Vinaigrette
A sweet and salty warm salad perfect for cooler weather. Sweet, firm pears, pan roasted and napped with an Applejack vinaigrette to slightly wilt the bitter greens. Salty toasted Cotija cheese and spiced pecans complete the dish.
3 firm, ripe Bartlett, Comice or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into six slices
10 oz Cotija Cheese, roughly crumbled
8 oz mixed bitter greens such as Kale, Mustard Greens, Arugula
1/4 cup Spiced Pecans (recipe below)
Ghee, for cooking
1/4 cup Holman Distillery Applejohn Applejack
1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
1/8 cup Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon fresh grated Ginger
3 stalks Green Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Honey
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- Prepare the bitter greens; tear or cut int bite size pieces and place in a large bowl
- Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of ghee and arrange the pear slices in the pan.
- Cooking, shaking the pan, and turning once, until the pears are golden and caramelized but still firm.
- Deglaze the pan with the Applejack, allow half the alcohol to cook off.
- Remove the pears to a plate and set aside.
- Add the apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to the pan
- Whisk in the butter until combined, followed by the ginger, green onions, olive oil, honey and mustard.
- Season with salt.
- Drizzle a little of the dressing over the pears, set rest of dressing aside
- Heat a small, separate pan over medium high heat. Add the Cojita cheese, and allow to toast until golden, turning once or twice, pull pan off the heat.
- Pour the rest of the warm dressing over the greens and toss through.
- Arrange the greens on a large platter or individual serving dishes, top with the pear slices, Cojita cheese and spiced pecans.