Skip the Cesar and opt for a little something more when it comes to the salad course at your next formal dinner party. Brandied nuts with a sugary crust are a delicious accent to this exquisite salad that's full of great flavor and texture.
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon spiced brandy
1/4 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons apple juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1 head butter leaf lettuce, rinsed, torn into bite-size pieces
1 medium Bartlett pear, peeled, cored, cut in paper-thin slivers
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pecans, brown sugar, and brandy, and cook, stirring constantly, until pecans are toasted and sugar dissolves into a coating on nuts, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and scatter nuts on wax paper-lined baking sheet.
Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple juice, salt and pepper. Stir in gorgonzola cheese until combined.
Place lettuce on 4 individual salad plates. Toss brandied pecans over lettuce. Arrange pear slices in a star pattern on top. Pour Gorgonzola vinaigrette over top. Serve immediately.