Bibb-Lettuce Salad With Blue Cheese, Pears and Walnuts
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups whole walnuts
3/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup melted bacon fat (optional; 1/4 cup olive oil may be substituted)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Bosc or Bartlett firm pears
Juice of 1 lemon
1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds Bibb or butterhead lettuce, tough outer leaves discarded, remaining leaves separated and left whole
10 ounces Maytag blue cheese, in large crumble
Spiced walnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the canola oil, cayenne pepper, and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Toss in the walnuts, and stir until they are coated. Spread the walnuts out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven until a deep brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool and crisp.
Vinaigrette: Add the shallots, mustard, and vinegar to a bowl and mix together. Slowly whisk in the bacon fat and oil until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper (do not refrigerate).
Salad: Core the pears, but do not peel. Cut them into thin lengthwise slices, and toss in a bowl with lemon juice. Add the lettuce, cheese, walnuts, and pears to a large bowl, and toss together with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Make a high stack of lettuce leaves on each plate, starting with medium leaves and going to smaller ones; sprinkle with walnuts and cheese and top with the sliced pears.
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