Do you remember that poached pear salad that I had in Shirlington, VA, the only really tasty thing I ate on my trip? OK, maybe it’s not sticking in your memory, but it certainly is in mine. I’d been thinking about it ever since that last night of the trip, mostly thinking how lame I am that I’ve never truly caramelized onions, and I wasn’t really quite sure how. So the other day, Joey and I found ourselves in a pretty amazing situation. For months, we’ve had tickets to see Rufus Wainwright in our very own little town, an exciting prospect on it’s own. And as as luck would have it, Grandpa Chris came to pick up the girls on his way home from work, so that they could go have pizza at the farm (I’ll explain that one some other time) and we could go to our show. But before the show, we made dinner! This might not sound so strange, but I’m not sure that Joey and I have ever made and eaten dinner on our own in maybe, well, six years and three weeks.
So the girls gleefully hopped into Chris’s car, and what did Joey and I do?
We surveyed our beverage options.
Let it be known here that Joey and I are not big drinkers… at all. I can drink that boy under the table, and I’m just a one drink kind of girl. But we made some drinks, well one each, and I guess they were a little strong, because we were a drunken pair.
For all those childless couples out there, this might be a normal Friday night, but for us, this was entirely unique. I must say, sometimes I just love the girls so much because they make me appreciate the moments when they’re not around. Is that horrible? It’s just the night was all sunny and warm and glittery, and there was this magic in not being responsible for anything. It was just pure fun. And then I made this salad. And Joey grilled some pork chops from our local pig in the freezer. Glittery, sunny, and really good.
And dinner was so good, we just ate without talking, and then we had to go to the concert, and we left the dishes right there on the table, embarking on a drunken and happy walk to town.
I’ve got my own little Rufus Wainright, only straight and married to me…
Poached Pear, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Salad
(my own taste buds’ adaptation of a salad at Busboys and Poets, Shirlington, VA)
So we’ve got a few different elements here:
1. lettuce of your choice, washed and dried
2. goat cheese- I use Monterey Chevre
3. caramelized onions- I’m sure you know how to caramelize onions, but I had to figure this one out. Here’s what I did:
Slice up 3-4 onions so you end up with long strings. Melt a hunk of butter in a large skillet, add the onions at low to medium heat. Toss the onions with a spatula so that they don’t stick and burn. Cook, tossing when you think of it, for about 40 minutes, or until the onions are a nice golden brown. Then dump the onions into a bowl, and you should have a brown crust on your skillet. Pour a few spoonfuls of white wine vinegar, a dash of water, and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar into the skillet. Let it boil, scraping the crust of the pan as you go. Pour this fabulous dark brown substance over the onions, stir it in, and refrigerate.
4. poached pears- I used two pears for this: peel the pears, cut in half from the stem to the bottom, and scoop out the core with a spoon. Bring about six cups of water to a boil, add 1/2 cup sugar and a length of lemon peel. Simmer the pears in the liquid for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender when pricked with a fork. Refrigerate in the poaching liquid- then when ready to assemble, slice.
5. candied pecans- In a medium bowl, mix a few glugs of real maple syrup, a splash of vodka, and a few dashes of chili pepper. Toss a few handfuls of pecans in this mixture. Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes. keep an eye on them- they can burn quickly.
6. vinaigrette- Whisk together about 1/4 cup olive oil, a few dashes sherry vinegar, a few dashes balsamic vinegar, and a spoonful of whole grain mustard. Adjust to your liking.
Assemble together and top with fresh pepper.