Michael Paley likes to play with fire at his new restaurant, Metropole, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The chef built a wood-burning oven and outfitted it with a plancha (a flattop-style Spanish grill) for an evenly hot surface used to char or roast most items on the menu, including steaks, foie gras, Roman cauliflower and even olives. In this salad, he finishes spiced, pickled pears on the plancha and pairs them with roasted beets, peppery watercress and goat cheese. In our adaptation, we blistered the pickled pears in a ripping-hot cast-iron pan to emulate Paley's signature singe.
Charred Pear Salad
Recipe adapted from Michael Paley, Metropole, Cincinnati, OH
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 35 minutes
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
5 whole star anise
2 dried bay leaves
2 Anjou pears, halved and cored
¼ cup whole pistachios
2 bunches watercress
¼ cup scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons fresh goat's-milk cheese (chèvre), crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups cooked baby beets or 3 medium cooked beets, quartered
Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Poach the pears: In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the water, wine, white vinegar, salt, cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the pear halves cut side down, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until a knife easily slips into a pear half, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid.
2. While the pears poach, make the salad: Preheat the oven to 350°. To a rimmed baking sheet, add the pistachios and bake until toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board to cool, then roughly chop.
3. In a large bowl, add the watercress, scallions, goat cheese and chopped pistachios. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the watercress mixture and toss to combine, then add the beets, toss once, and divide among 4 plates.
4. Heat a medium heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil and set the pears in the skillet cut side down, cooking until they are browned and caramelized, 1½ to 2 minutes. Set each pear half on top of each salad, sprinkle with flaky salt and serve.