“Daniel… Daniel… DANIEL!”
Chef was calling across the kitchen on a Saturday last week at 3:05. I had already been at work since 1:45 and came to work early to get started on my depleted mise en place from our usual Friday night rush. I had broken everything down into an order from lease fucked completely out of stock and utterly fucked if I didn’t get it done by 5:00. I had all new 9th pans, fresh water and oils, bins filled with my herbs, lemons I needed to scrubs and cut into intricate “crowns”, pounds of multicolored roasted carrots that needed trimming, peas and broccolini that need blanching, sauce for the Dover that needed to be made (and not broke – I hate when that sauce breaks!), pureés that need to be pureéd, oranges that needed to be sûpremed because whoever cut the ones in the quart I already had are either stupid or used a fork to do it because they were complete shit and unusable and oh yea, make family meal. The shitily sûpremed oranges would, however, make a great snack for me to nurse my hangover that I hadn’t yet shaken off. But none of this mattered when Chef called for me across the kitchen.
“OUI!?” I responded in classic fashion. (The response I picked up gleefully from a brief externship at The Modern – yes the one with two Michelin Stars run by Chef Abram Bissel.)
“I need a new salad for dinner service tonight. I made the White Wine Poached Pears yesterday but I don’t have time to make a salad right now, please take care of this. We need it completely finished and enough of everything for service at 5:30. I need it plated in 20 minutes.”
Like an addict itching for his next score, I bolted downstairs to dry storage and the walk-in with a 6″ hotel pan that I filled with a container of partially hydrated Dried Cherries, Frisée, Candy Cane Beets, Fennel, Hazelnuts, Blue Cheese, 12 Year Balsamic from Modena. I ran upstairs and began with the dressing. Next, I shaved the Fennel and Beets super thin on the mandolin, sliced the pears, made the Hazelnut Crumbles and labeled all the containers. I then assembled the salad with some trial and error and with the approval of the Chef, this was the final decision. It was quick, but it was beautiful. It’s seasonal. It’s refreshing. It’s flavorful. In a world run by “oohs” and “aahs” I felt like this was a salad that people would really enjoy.
To my surprise, a “higher up” in the parent company that owns the restaurant I work at came in and ordered the special salad. It was received well and they let the kitchen know. it was a small moment of pride for myself. I was proud of the salad I made. The folly of specials though is they (maybe) sell a few each day for a few days then they disappear, sometimes forever. They might have been wonderful but part of being a chef is knowing that everything needs to go at some point. The irony is that this might be my favorite seasonal salad and one I come back to in the future when I need to entertain because of how delicious it is. I know my family will have the opportunity to try it when I come home next.
White Wine Poached Pear Salad
White Wine Poached Pears
- 1 Head Friseé
- 1 head Fennel, Shaved very thin on a Mandolin, held in water
- 2 Candy Cane Beets, shaved very thin on Mandolin, held in water
- Tart Cherries, partially hydrated in Tart Cherry Juice
- Cut the green parts of the friseé and disregard. Cut away the stem and disregard. Use only the white. Cut the white part in half to produce approx 1″ lengths of friseé.
- 3 oz Tart Cherry Juice
- 6 Tart Cherries
- 3 oz Honey
- 2 oz Jerez Vinegar
- 10 oz Canola Oil
- 1/4 tsp Xantham Gum
- Combine all in a blender except the oil and xantham gum and slowly bring up to the highest setting
- Slowly drizzle in the Canola until it is all combined.
- Add the xanthan and blend for 30 seconds.
- Add to a metal container and place in an ice-water bath until cold. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and reserve until dressing the salad.
- 2 cup Hazelnuts, chopped semi-fine
- 1 tsp cinnamon, fresh ground from sticks
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground from whole clove
- 3 tbls Sugar
- 4 tbls Butter, very soft (left at room temp until totally soft)
- 1/2 cup flour
- Combine all ingredients and lay on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet tray.
- Bake at 350*F using the convention setting for about 10 minutes until everything is lightly browned and aromatic.
- If not finished, check every 3-5 minutes until browned and aromatic.
- Blitz in a blender until it’s a coarse crumble
- Toss some friseé, fennel and cherries a small amount of dressing and set aside.
- Dress the plate a spiral of Balsamic Vinegar.
- Place 5 pear pieces over the Vinegar, place some of the dressed salad atop and place 3 slices of beets around.
- Top with some Hazelnut Crumble, and as much Blue Cheese as you like (and I like a lot).
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