Every once in a while you get a wild hair, and you decide you want to change things up just a smidge for Thanksgiving. Let’s face it: many of us have been doing the same old thing for years, largely for the sake of tradition. And while tradition is good, and I honor tradition, let’s consider for a moment what a shot of something new brings to the holidays. Brand new babies are Nature’s way of shaking things up a little bit. Am I right? The freshness and vivacity of new life adds a magical element that wasn’t there before. If you don’t have a brand new baby to light up your holiday, how about watching everyone’s face light up over a dish that is unexpected, new, and delightfully delicious? If you’re wanting to inject a little new life into your menu, I have just the dish for you!
This Apple-Pear Salad with Maple-Pecan Bacon and Cranberry Orange Ginger Vinaigrette made my guests’ tastebuds do a little tango, and while the bowl was being scraped out, it turned out they’d all gone back for thirds! Who can argue with a dish that generates that much excitement?
True, there are a lot of flavor components and ingredients, but each and every ingredient is an important element, and together, they all work to bring this salad into a harmonious whole.
Preparing the bacon took the most time, largely because getting the pecan bits to adhere to the maple coated bacon was a little tricky. If you wanted to take a shortcut and just sprinkle some toasted pecans on the salad at the end, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Promise. But personally, I’m going to keep doing it the way the recipe states, because when those pecans have been toasted with both the bacon fat and the maple syrup, it’s a LOT like being Touched by a Southern Angel.
I usually prepare the Maple Bacon the day before Thanksgiving, and store it in a ziplock in the fridge.
If you want to make this dish strictly as a vegetarian dish, you can certainly omit the bacon.
Apple-Pear Salad with Maple Pecan Bacon
Makes 8 servings
8 thick bacon slices
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
1/2 of a large plastic container spring mix salad greens (I buy mine at Costco)
1 large pear, thinly sliced
1 large Honeycrisp apple (other variety, like Gala or Pink Ladies, will do), thinly sliced
1 c. halved seedless grapes (whatever color you’d like: I had green on hand)
4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (I substituted Feta, which worked fine; you want something with zing, that is dry and crumbly)
Cranberry Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 c. whole berry cranberry sauce
1 t. grated orange zest
1/2 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. light brown sugar
2 t. grated fresh ginger
1/2 t. salt
To Prepare Vinaigrette:
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake vigorously, until blended and smooth. (Alternatively, you can whisk it.)
To Prepare Bacon:
Preheat oven to 400º. Place a lightly greased wire rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly roll pan. Dip bacon in syrup, allowing excess to drip off. Dredge bacon in pecan pieces. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on rack, and bake 20 minutes; turn bacon slices, and bake 5 to 10 minutes more, or until browned and crisp. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes, and cut bacon crosswise into 1″ pieces.
To Prepare Salad:
Place salad greens on a serving platter. Top with apple slices grapes, cheese, and bacon. Serve with cranberry vinaigrette.