Baked Crottin with Baby Lettuce, Caramelized Pears and Walnuts

"Crottin de Chavignol is the most famous cheese from the Loire Valley. It is a traditional, unpasteurized, natural rind, farmhouse goats’ milk cheese. It has a subtle and slightly nutty flavour. When it is young the texture is solid and compact, becoming slightly granular and drier with age. When heated, crottin becomes warm and soft, but doesn’t melt. If crottin isn’t available, substitute another goats’ milk cheese, which might taste different, but will be equally delicious."

Ingredients:

       6 Poached Pears (recipe follows)

6 crottins

mixed baby lettuces

Pear Vinaigrette

½ cup walnuts, toasted in a hot oven

 

Poached Pears

2 cups water

¾ cup sweet dessert wine

2½ cups white sugar

1 cinnamon stick

5 black peppercorns

5 allspice berries

5 star anise

2 lemons

7 firm Bosc pears

Method:

  • Put the water, wine and sugar into a medium, stainless steel saucepan. Add the cinnamon, peppercorns, allspice and star anise. Add the grated zest and juice of one lemon.
  • Set over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil.
  • Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon into a separate bowl and fill with enough water to cover the pears.
  • Peel the pears, slice in half and cut away the core. As you prepare them, place in the acidulated water so they don’t discolour.
  • Drain the water and tip the pears into the boiling spiced syrup.
  • Press a piece of greaseproof paper on top of the boiling pears and cover with the lid. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
  • Cook the pears for about 10 minutes until just tender but not too soft. Make sure they’re cooked through all the way to the centre, otherwise they’ll turn brown.
  • Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and cool for later use.
  • Reduce the poaching liquid by boiling uncovered to an almost syrupy consistency.

Pear Vinaigrette:

Makes 2 cups

¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup poaching liquid (from the pears: see p. 6)
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
½ Poached Pear (p. 6)
¾ cup olive oil
salt and milled black pepper
 

  • In a food processor, combine the vinegar, poaching liquid, vegetable oil, mustard, honey and pear, and blend until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the salad:

  • Heat the oven to 180°C.
  • Place the crottin on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown and just starting to melt.
  • Heat some of the reduced poaching liquid in a frying pan, add the pears flat down, and caramelize until golden brown.
  • Place the lettuce on each plate with warm goats’ cheese and two caramelized pear halves. Drizzle the remaining syrup over the cheese and sprinkle with walnuts.
  • Serve with a slice of crusty baguette or walnut bread.