Published November 1, 2007.
Could we find a way to make lackluster pears shine in a holiday salad?
Cooking mediocre supermarket pears until their exteriors caramelize is a great way to boost flavor, but most pear salad recipes offer complicated roasting instructions that yield overly soft pears better suited for dessert.
We wanted a simple technique for caramelizing pears that wouldn't overcook the fruit. And we wanted a perfect balance of fruit, greens, and cheese in the salad.
To solve the caramelizing problem, we turned to pan-roasting. On the stovetop, we could easily control the heat and check the pears constantly. We cooked them in quarters, which prevented the interiors from softening too much, and tossed them with sugar before cooking to encourage better browning. To incorporate the pears into the salad effectively, we sliced each quarter crosswise to form bite-sized pieces, but the balance still didn't seem quite right. Since we were already using balsamic vinegar in the vinaigrette (its fruity flavor accentuates pear flavor), we tried adding a couple of extra tablespoons of straight balsamic vinegar to the hot pan while roasting the pears. The extra vinegar instantly reduced to form a glazy coating on the pears, matching the flavor of the salad perfectly.list of recipes