If you thought that saying Asian pear salad with honey pale ale dressing and goat cheese fritters is a bit of a mouthful…wait until you hear this – the fritters also include a most generous amount of pine nuts. Now I have really covered the key ingredients.
The entire line up was inspired by the Asian pears which I was surprised to notice at the store a few days ago since they are not supposed to be in season for a few more months. I shouldn’t have been, the ones I bought were imported from Chile and looked ripe. More importantly, they smelled too good for me not to buy.
I love the fact that when fully ripe, Asian pears still maintain a jicama like firm texture. And the slight acidity accompanying their characteristic sweetness. And that they are so incredibly juicy. I need to make sorbet with them in the near future, they are perfectly suited for the job. Maybe I’ll lace said Asian pear sorbet with bourbon.
On the subject of our salad, for the dressing (and to pair it with) I picked a pale ale Chris and I have favored for quite a while. Crazy Mountain Mountain Livin’ Pale Ale was one of the first brews of our first ever local brewery in Edwards (back when we lived in the deep mountains). It is a very aromatic hop forward ale brewed with Simcoe hops which account for its earthy, herbal bite (subdued, IBU is 40) and Citra hops which give it a melon/passion fruit finish. I’ve always wanted to use Mountain Livin’ in a salad dressing instead of an IPA. It has a solid malty sweetness which mitigates the hop bitterness and creates flavors reminiscent of those you’d experience when eating arugula.
I added honey and lemon juice to the pale ale dressing to enhance the sweetness and the citrus and totally skipped an emulsifier. Using mustard as emulsifier would have completely obliterated the flavor profile I was going for. Namely, something very fresh tasting that can stand up to the sweetness of the Asian pear, tune it down a notch and also give the leaf lettuce a faint bitterness such as in arugula, frisee or watercress. If you like dressing salads with just oil and vinegar, you’ll really appreciate this pale ale dressing. Not creamy, very simple, yet capable of hitting the right spots. (You could also use a New England style IPA or any pale ale with lower bitterness and high aromatics).
When speaking of arugula, goat cheese and pine nuts come to mind, no? I mean, one of my favorite salads ever is arugula and red onions sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and drizzled with warm goat cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. So of course I thought of adding goat cheese and pine nuts. I did it by way of these super easy fritters, even put some fresh thyme in them. Chris totally complimented me on the night I tested the salad. But.
I made the whole thing again the next day to eat for lunch and take the pics (yes, I absolutely enjoyed my lunch beer) and do you know what? When Chris saw the pictures, he said that I should not have split the fritters in two, that it was not proper etiquette. They’d be cold before the customer had a chance to eat them. Well, what was done was done… I split them open because I wanted the pine nuts and the gooey cheese to be front and center in the pictures, alongside the Asian pear shavings. True, they did get cold by the time I was done shooting. And true, I had more, that were not split in two:)!! Always a good idea to make more food than you need.
Never mind the etiquette, this is one pretty darn good salad. This is about pairing beer and food. Remember the recipe below next time you see Asian pears or if you want to impress someone by making a pale ale dressing that has the power to make red leaf lettuce taste like arugula:)
- 1 Asian pear
- 1/2 head red leaf lettuce
- 1/4 read onion
- 1/4 cup pale ale or IPA with low bitterness such as New England style IPA or Session IPA
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt and pinch of pepper
- 8 oz goat cheese
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh thyme to taste
- vegetable oil to fry fritters about 3 cups
- Cut the red leaf lettuce in small strips.
- Slice the red onion (you cannot slice it thin enough). You may want to use less than 1/4 onion depending on your personal taste.
- Using a vegetable peeler peel the Asian pear (discard peels) and continue shaving off thin pieces. Depending on the size of the fruit and your personal taste preference you may not want to use all the pear.
- Mix the lettuce, pear and onions in a bowl.
- Pale ale dressing:
- Mix together pale ale and honey. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Stir. Slowly add the olive oil and stir vigorously (since not using emulsifier, oil will not blend entirely, this is OK)
- In a bowl, using a fork mix together the goat cheese, eggs, flour, pine nuts, salt & pepper and thyme. Place in the freezer for just a few minutes to get the mixture to firm up.
- Bring oil to 350°F over medium-high heat (if you let it get any hotter, the fritters will burn on the outside before they are cooked through).
- Using a small ice-cream scoop drop dollops of the goat cheese mixture into the oil and fry, gently turning with a spoon, until golden brown all over. Place on paper towel to dry. Work in batches of no more than 4 fritters at a time.
- Dress the salad, tossing to make sure all ingredients are well coated. Plate and add the goat cheese fritters. Open a pale ale or IPA and enjoy.