Frisee Salad with Spiced Walnuts, Pears, Farmhouse Cheddar, and Port Vinaigrette

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 31 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Cook: 1 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Dressing:

1 cup port wine

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

1 shallot, finely minced 

Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:

8 cups loosely packed young frisee (curly endive), torn into bite-size pieces, or mesclun

1 1/2 cups ribbon-cut radicchio, soaked, drained, and dried

1 crisp red pear, halved, cored, and very thinly sliced crosswise

2-ounce chunk farmhouse Cheddar

1/2 cup coarsely broken Spiced Candied Walnuts, recipe follows

Spiced Candied Walnuts:

Peanut or canola oil

Water

4 cups walnut halves

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Directions

  1. Dressing: Simmer the port in a small saucepan until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let cool, then whisk in the vinegar, shallot, and salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. 
  2. Salad: In a large bowl, toss the frisee or mesclun, radicchio, and pear. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Drizzle with the dressing; you probably won't use it all. With a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over top. Scatter the walnuts on top and serve immediately.  

Spiced Candied Walnuts:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat about 1-inch of oil to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add walnuts and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer nuts to a medium bowl. While nuts are still hot and slightly wet, add confectioners' sugar and toss to coat nuts. Stir and toss until all the sugar has melted into the nuts; if bits of un-melted sugar remain on the nuts, they will not fry properly. 
  3. Stir the nuts again before frying. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer a few nuts to the hot oil, allowing the foam to subside before adding another spoonful. (Otherwise, the oil could foam over and burn you.) Fry in small batches until the nuts are medium brown, about 45 seconds; be careful not to overcook. Scatter on an unlined baking sheet to cool slightly. 
  4. In a small bowl, stir together cayenne, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and pepper, to taste. 
  5. While the nuts are still warm, transfer them to a bowl and sprinkle evenly with about half of the spice mix. Toss well to distribute the spices and then taste a nut. Add more spice mix, to taste, and toss well after each addition. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for at least 2 weeks. 

Cook’s Note

Michael's Notes: Supermarket pears are usually rock hard because they have just come out of cold storage. Buy your pear a couple of days before you plan to use it, and leave it at room temperature to soften a little. It's easier to slice if it's still fairly firm.