Oh babycakes. Hold on to your chairs, or your mouse. I am about to share one of my most treasured, most revered recipes. I am not kidding. This is a recipe that I keep in my arsenal; that I never divulge. But in the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street kiddos, I’m going to share my wealth.
To be fair, I did not create this recipe. Nor did I discover the beauty. My friend JR brought it to a function. I practically fell off my chair as I ate it. No really, I did. Quite embarrassing. I immediately asked JR where she got it. She said something I’ll never forget. And I quote, “My talent lies not in cooking the best but in finding the best recipes. I know how to find the good ones, baby.” She was wrong. While she really does find the tastiest gems, she is an enormously talented cook.
So, I will now set my baby free. Please enjoy this salad. It is the salad I bring when I’m new in town and I really want people to like me. It is the salad I make for my friend’s 40th birthday because she deserves something beautiful. It is the salad I know and trust and love. Please love it too.
Apple Salad with Blue Cheese Croutons and Cider Dressing
(taken from www.foodtv.com, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse)
2 slices French bread, cubed (about 1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces blue cheese (recommended: Maytag)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
2 medium sweet apples, such as McIntosh or Fuji, cored and thinly sliced, with the peel on
5 tablespoons soft apple cider
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch ground black pepper
6 cups mesclun
1/4 pound prosciutto or Serrano ham, thinly sliced then shredded
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons of the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat the bread evenly. Place on a baking sheet and bake until browned, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and Essence, and cook, stirring, until the sugar is caramelized and the nuts are evenly coated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and spread on a waxedpaper lined plate. Separate with a fork and let cool.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and add the sliced apples. Cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider, vinegar, and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly until it emulsifies. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper, and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the lettuces, prosciutto, and croutons and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Place the apples in a small bowl and add enough dressing to coat.
Divide the lettuces among 6 salad plates and arrange the apple slices on top. Sprinkle the walnuts and remaining cheese over the apples. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve.
Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.