Pear, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad with Sugared Pecans and Maple Vinaigrette
This is my favorite salad.
I usually make it in the Autumn, but because lettuce is in season, and I'm making weekly batches of goat cheese, I decided to make this hearty salad with Ina Garten's Shrimp Bisque and some homemade sourdough bread for dinner last week.
A Little Prep
This salad has caramelized onions and cooked bacon bits, and I have a "thing" about warm ingredients on salad, so I find that if I crisp the bacon and cook the onions ahead of time, and let them cool, it doesn't wilt the salad.
And even though the flavors are rich, it still tastes fresh.
I really like the peppery flavor of Arugula with this salad, as the dressing and components tend toward the sweet side, the bitter arugula creates a nice balance of flavors. Our Arugula is starting to bolt, but I used it anyway. We're still picking our butter lettuce and leaf lettuce, so I made a mixture. But I really do feel like this salad benefits from an herb-type lettuce mix.
When I first dreamed up this recipe I used store-bought Pecans that were coated in a delicious praline crunch, but I can't find them anymore. Honestly, this salad has enough sweetness from the dressing and the pears that plain pecans would work just fine. But if you want to go over the top... a sweetened Pecan is delicious. I found honey roasted this time and it worked great. You could also make your own praline pecans.
1/2 lb bacon (Apple wood smoked works really nice)
Sweet onion sliced thinly and halved
Herb blend/Spring Mix/Arugula Lettuce
Goat cheese/Chevre (Learn how to make your own here)
Sliced ripe pears (I like Bosc)
Pecans Praline/Honey Roasted (You can find these in the crouton/salad topping section of your grocery store)
Maple Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Chop bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Heat a cast iron skillet and fry with the bacon bits until crispy. Strain out with a slotted spoon and place in refrigerator to cool.
Pour off most of the bacon grease and return skillet to heat. Add onions and cook 15-20 minutes on medium heat until caramelized. Remove with a slotted spoon and refrigerate to cool.
I make the dressing in my bullet blender. Add all ingredients and blend until combined.
Assemble the salad
Arrange lettuce on plate and top with cooled onions, bacon bits, pear slices and a generous amount of goat cheese.
Sprinkle on the pecans and drizzle with the Maple Vinaigrette.