Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Cherry Bomb - Truffled Pancetta and Cherry Salad

This salad has become a Thanksgiving staple over the last 8 years, whether I am with my family in Portland or with my friends in San Diego. It's a modified version of a recipe by Michael Chiarello I picked up a many many moons ago. Originally calling for cider vinegar, porcini oil and dried sour cherries soaked in water. I use to make this with dried cranberries, but the only dried cranberries I seem to be able to find the last few years are "sweetened". (YUCK!) So I have returned to using the tart Montmorency cherries.

I have always thought that it was such a waste to soak them in water when it seems like the perfect opportunity to add a little kick, by macerating the cherries/cranberries in SOME sort of alcohol. With unsweetend cranberries I would typically use Orange Muscat, Moscato or Muscat Canelli for soaking, but there is no reason you could not use Gran Marnier to add a hint of orange, Maraschino to lend a bit of almond, or even St. Germaine to add some floral notes to your salad. I would stay out of the heavier liquor though, it may be a bit much for the champagne vinegar and the truffle oil.

Truffled Pancetta and Cherry Salad

1/4 cup dried Sour Cherries (Montmorency)
alcohol for soaking (Be it wine or liqueur, this year I used a wonderful Cranberry wine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz Pancetta, diced
1 TB minced Garlic
1 TB chopped fresh Thyme leaves
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar
2 TB Italian White Truffle Olive oil
Kosher Salt
6 cups mixed baby greens (roughly 2 of the pre-prepped bags of salad)
6 ounces fresh goat cheese (Chevre) I usually use Silver Goat brand

In a small bowl, macerate dried cherries in your chosen alcohol, then set aside to soften.

Pour 1 TB olive oil into a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add pancetta and sauté until the fat is rendered out, drain pancetta reserving 1 TB of fat from the pan.

Add 2 TB Olive oil to the skillet & increase the heat to medium-high so you can sauté the Pancetta again until it's crispy; then add the garlic and sauté a little longer until the garlic becomes golden.

Turn heat down to medium-low and add the thyme and 10 – 15 grinds of black pepper, then deglaze the pan with Champagne vinegar, be sure to scrape the pan to release the fond.

Reduce vinegar by half.

Remove from heat and whisk in the Truffle oil and a pinch of Kosher Salt.

Place mixed baby greens in a salad bowl.

Drain the Cherries and add to the salad and toss biefly.

Pour Pancetta mixture over greens and toss quickly, just until the greens begin to wilt.

Crumble goat cheese over the greens and toss lightly.

Serve immediately...

It looks a little messy, but I assure you, it is absolute heaven on a salad fork. It works better served individually with chevre sprinkled on top instead of tossed in, never the less, when there are hungry mouths to feed, sometimes speed and convenience are of the essence. LOL



Patti T. said...

Sure looked good to me! Funny, I served Montmorency cherry wine as one of my wines at Thanksgiving. This sure would have went well with this salad.

Katy ~ said...

This sounds superb!

Bob said...

What good salad isn't a little messy? Looks awesome, love the cubes of pancetta in there.

Unknown said...

this does sound mmm mmmm good! You can't go wrong with pancetta and those cherries? holy moly!