Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ham Hock & Pear Salad

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a lovely, light lunch at Dax Cafe Bar. This is definitely one of my favourite spots for lunch when I'm working in town. It's a slice of Gallic heaven, serving great French-inspired dishes in a beautiful club-style room. I love their salads which usually feature just a handful of ingredients, but are executed really well with good textures and flavours. (Dax Cafe Bar is also open in the evenings, serving a range of "tapas" and other dishes. You can read more about it on one of my earlier reviews).

Tonight, we were cooking slow braised beef cheeks for dinner. These take time to cook, and I wanted to make a quick starter or salad dish as we waited for the magic to happen in the oven. Earlier in the day, I had visited the wonderful Byrnes Butchers on North Circular Road in Phibsborough, where I had purchased a smoked ham hock. My plan had been to put this in the fridge for snackage, but I decided to use it in a Dax-inspired salad. I simply tore at the ham hock until I had a pile of shreds. The different sizes and rough textures keeps the salad looking rustic and simple. I added some carmelised pear slices for a touch of sweetness against the mustard vinaigrette.

Smoked ham hock & pear salad
Ingredients
4-5 slices of pear, cored
Knob of butter
Olive oil

Cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Strong mustard

Lamb's lettuce, or leaves of your choice
Shredded cooked ham
Salt & pepper to taste

Start by heating a pan over a medium to high heat and melt the butter. Place the pear slices in the pan, and cook for several minutes on either side, or until golden and carmelised. You need the heat to be above medium in order to get the sugars to carmelise, but make sure not to burn the butter. 

Once happy with the pear slices, carefully remove from the pan, and place on some kitchen paper to drain off some of the butter.

To make the vinaigrette, combine olive oil, vinegar and some mustard in a bowl until blended. I'm deliberately not recommending quantities here, as everyone has different taste when it comes to dressing strength. Personally, I like my dressings to be really punchy, with lots of mustard flavour.

Arrange the lamb's lettuce on a plate and spoon over several teaspoons of the dressing. Place the ham shreds and pear slices on top, and finish with a little salt & pepper.

Once I had the salad ready, I took some quick photos. Later as I looked at them on the laptop, I was struck by the beautiful colours and textures. So here's a close-up from one of the shots for you to enjoy!

Close up of smoked ham hock & pear salad

4 comments:

Colette said...

There is a deli in my town which sells ham hocks, and it's great to see this recipe for something else to make with them, rather than just eat the meat on its own. I love fruit with meats (peaches & Parma ham being one, and this is definitely one for me to do. Gorgeous!

CarolineO said...

Scrunny! Going to give this a try one of these days. How were the beef cheeks?

dudara said...

@Colette - I think any fruit would work here. I also have the idea that the addition of candied nuts, such as hazelnuts or pecans, would work too and add a bit of crunch.

@Caroline - The beef cheeks turned out amazing. So soft and succulent. We simply braised them for hours in a whole bottle of red wine with stock. Before that we had fried some pices from the smoked ham hock and you could really taste that in the background. We left shallots whole in the pot and they melted into the most lovely sweet lumps.

WiseMóna said...

This looks so good. We love the ham hocks in this house too. They are great for snackage, as you put so nicely, and wow does that salad ever look good! You are right about the colour and texture. Beautiful indeed. Pears and apples are everywhere right now. We make a great carmelised pear and blue cheese pizza and now I am wanting one! Lovely photos as always...