Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mixed Green Salad with Candied Pecans, Blue Cheese, and Sherry Vinaigrette

So I have to give a shout out here to Susan Spicer for giving me the inspiration for this salad in her Crescent City Cooking cookbook.  We took the inspiration for both the candied pecans and the sherry vinaigrette from her cookbook.  The funny thing was that I had always planned to do a salad with candied pecans and blue cheese, plus our mixed greens from the CSA, it just happened that she had several of the elements I wanted to make in her cookbook.  I had originally wanted to make Thomas Keller's Candied Pecans from his Ad Hoc At Home Cookbook, but the recipe called for you to roast them for 2 hours at a low temperature, and I didn't have the time or the energy for that this evening.  So as I was flipping through Susan Spicer's recipe because I have been wanting to try a few of her vinaigrette recipes, I came across her recipe for Cajun-Spiced Pecans and decided to use it.  And then I decided to make a variation on her Sherry Vinaigrette (minus the capers, which just sounded odd to me).  So I threw together a salad with our mixed greens, some blue cheese, those candied pecans and a sherry vinaigrette.

I picked out the blue cheese at the cheese counter at Zabar's, where I told the lady behind the counter that I wanted a nice blue cheese that was milder than a Roquefort to serve in a salad with candied pecans.  This blue, which was a creamy French blue cheese (I tore off the label so I don't know exactly what type it was, but it was quite creamy, with a nice pungency) was what she recommended.  Alex's complaint with the blue cheese selection was that if you got a big bite of cheese, it really overpowered the other, more subtle flavors of the vinaigrette.  And he was right.  Perhaps a milder blue cheese like gorgonzola, or a Valdeon would be a better option.  Otherwise the salad was really nice - something that you would expect to be served at a neighborhood restaurant.  Actually, with the addition of some fresh or dried fruit (perhaps some figs) and a different blue cheese this would be a very nice restaurant salad.  Not only that, but I think this salad was the perfect accompaniment to the ribeyes Alex picked up at the butcher after work today.  The vinaigrette was really nice - a little tangy from the sherry vinegar, with a pleasant sweetness from the honey.  I also liked the candied pecans, although I really thought that as Cajun-spiced they would have a little more heat to them.  However, I think that had they been super spicy they wouldn't have gone quite as well with the salad, so I guess it was a good thing that they weren't as spicy as I had thought!

P.S.  I know that this is the fourth recipe that I have published today (and the only one that I actually made today), but I have had all of these posts basically tee-ed up to be posted and somehow today I finally had the time (and the motivation) to post all of them.  I would have continued to sit on  a few of the recipes, but God only knows that if I did that I wouldn't get around to posting them for a few more weeks...

Recipe after the jump!

Mixed Green Salad with Candied Pecans, Blue Cheese, and Sherry Vinaigrette

4 oz. mixed salad greens
1/4 cup Candied Pecans
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled (I recommend a gorgonzola or a Valdeon, but use whatever blue cheese you prefer)
1/4 cup Sherry Vinaigrette

Drizzle 2-3 tbsp sherry vinaigrette around the sides of a large mixing bowl.  Add salad greens and toss gently until salad greens are evenly and lightly coated with dressing.  Divide greens among salad plates and top with candied pecans and blue cheese crumbles.  Drizzle with more dressing as necessary.

Candied Pecans (aka Cajun-spiced Pecans)
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans
By Susan Spicer

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup shelled pecans
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp Maggi seasoning (the recipe called for Worcestershire sauce, but we were out)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
heaping 1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add pecans and all remaining ingredients.  Toss to coat evenly.  Spread the pecans out on a rimmed baking sheet (our quarter sheet pans were the perfect size).  Bake until the nuts are lightly toasted and the glaze has dried, about 7-10 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Cool completely.

Sherry Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, finely minced
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good quality evoo

Whisk together shallot, vinegar, honey, and mustard in a small non-reactive bowl.  Stream in evoo, while whisking.  Taste and adjust evoo level, and season to taste with s&p.

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