Sunday, January 9, 2011

Proscuitto-Wrapped Pears with Arugula, Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Balsamic Reduction

As it usually occurs, it is the quality of the ingredients, and not the chef's hand, which allows a dish to be extraordinary. In fact, the chef and a referee in sport have a similar goal- not to be noticed, to remain as background noise. Let the food or game be natural, let them be the highlight, the star of the show. This little snack is a great example of that credo- using high quality foods to let the dish speak for itself. Refs though, usually find a way to get noticed, at least by me. Word.

This is one of my all-time favorite flavor combination. First, you hit the salty, yummy prosciutto. You can get some good pork from the deli or maybe an Italian supermarket. This stuff is fantastic. The funky, nothing-can-come-close-to-this-taste of the Maytag blue cheese and the sweet taste of the caramelized onion hit you next, then you reach the slight bitter arugula before finally coming to the sweet, juicy fruit in the pear slice. A drizzle with a balsamic syrup adds sweet and savory elements to continue the flavor profile. Umami indeed. A glass of Pinot Noir would be ideal here, or perhaps a tipple of port?

This has become a standard appetizer for those times when you have a few hungry people congregated in the same area. Or a party. Where you watch a sporting competition on television and complain about the officiating.

Another great aspect of this dish? You can make it a few hours in advance, keeping it chilled of course. The prosciutto will cover most of the pear flesh that might oxidize and brown, no worries there. Be sure to bring to room temp before serving. Party on Wayne.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Arugula, Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Balsamic Reduction
makes 24 pieces

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 TB butter
3 pears (I like d'anjou)
16-20 oz prosciutto, split lengthwise (depending on packaging)
6-8 oz blue cheese
2 C baby arugula, loosely packed
balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the thin onion slices and the EVOO. Stir to coat well, then turn down the heat to low/simmer. When caramelizing onions, you want the heat low enough so they are not sauteing, that's too hot. A very gently sizzle in the pan is enough, and will be somewhere in between low and simmer. Once situated, don't stir for the first twenty minutes or so, you want them to sit, undisturbed, to start browning nicely. Brown=flavor creation. You like flavor. Stir occasionally while cooking for about 60-90 minutes, depending on how much time you have, until very dark and tasty looking.

Slice the pears in quarters and remove the core, then make two more slices to each quarter so you have 8 slices per pear. Cut or slice your prosciutto accordingly so you have about 6" strips of meat. Lay out on a board, add a slice of pear to each, then a lil bit of stinky blue, a couple stems of baby arugula, then a touch of onion. Wrap up tightly yet delicately so you don't tear the prosciutto. Once plated, drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Be ready to slap hands of those who try to hog them.

For the reduction- In a small pot, add 1/2 C balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir in the sugar, then let reduce by about 75%, you'll have a few TB's worth of a lovely thickened, syrup-like consistency. Which you won't see below, as they haven't made it to the party yet.

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