In this delicious salad, the salty, buttery flavor of Gorgonzola dolce (a mild, slightly aged, spreadable type of Gorgonzola) mingles with the sweet, juicy pears. Slices of pancetta, baked until crisp, add texture and another savory note.
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In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and 1 tsp. of the honey. Brush the mixture over the cut sides of the pears and season with salt. Arrange the pears cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the upper rack until just tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange the pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the lower rack until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts, the Gorgonzola dolce, thyme, and the remaining 1 tsp. honey with the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the pears from the oven and divide the cheese filling evenly among the pear cavities. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and bake on the upper rack until the cheese starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Turn the broiler on high and broil until the nuts brown slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil. Toss the mâche with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and divide among 4 plates. Top each salad with 2 pancetta rounds and 1 pear half. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Perfect alternative to the 'regular salad' routine. Gets raves - people always ask for recipe. I do a bibb or boston lettuce - just more of what I like - and walnuts. Once I used a high quality bottled dressing - just as good and less work. Also, so much of this can be done ahead so it makes an easy first course to assemble. Impressive and yummy.
Wow. Beautiful, simple, and great flavors. I served at a dinner party as the starter and it was a huge hit! Definitely a keeper.
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