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Mixed Lettuces with Roasted Cherries, Hazelnuts & Warm Saint-Marcellin

Updated February 23, 2016
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A handsome salad I like to serve at the end of a meal featuring red meat, pork, or game birds. It is lovely made with tender young red lettuces whose leaves are no more than a a few inches long. Mix with a little arugula or frisée if you like. Saint-Marcellin is a rich cow’s milk cheese with a slightly yeasty tang and some fruity notes. I’ve eaten syrupy ripe Saint-Marcellin out of the cup it’s sold in with a tiny plastic spoon provided by the affineus {cheese “refiner”}, but this salad wants a fairly firm specimen, with only a bit of downy, white mold on the surface. It should feel like firm custard, as opposed to soft pudding. A young Banon is a good alternative to Saint-Marcellin—it is the same size and has similar character. It is wrapped in chestnut leaves, which are convenient for warming purposes. Do check to make sure no gray mold hides beneath these leaves. Although it’s usually inoffensive, after heating its flavor may be too strong.

4 servings

CostSplurge

Moderate

Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationappetizer

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecheesy, creamy, crunchy, fruity, light, nutty, savory, sharp, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishwarm salad

Ingredients

  • About 24 hazelnuts (3/4 ounce, or a scant ¼ cup)
  • 16 ripe cherries (about 6 ounces), such as Bing, Van, Larian, or Burlat
  • About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • A few splashes of kirsch or grappa (optional)
  • About 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • 2 wheels Saint-Marcellin cheese (about 3 ounces each) at room temperature
  • 4 to 5 mixed young lettuces, such a red oak leaf, red perella, and baby red romaine, carefully washed and dried
  • 4 slices chewy, peasant-style bread

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Roast the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet until the skins darken and start to split, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 400°.

While the nuts are still hot, bundle them in a towel beanbag-style, then scrunch and massage them to rub off most of their skins. Pick out the nuts and coarsely chop.

Rub the cherries with a few drops of olive oil, and season with a few drops of the optional alcohol and a pinch of salt.

Combine the oil, vinegar, and salt to taste. Add another few drops of kirsch or grappa, if you like, and taste again.

Place the cheeses on squares of parchment paper and place, with the cherries, on a sheet pan (the cherries might roll off a cookie sheet). Roast until the fruit is near to bursting and the cheese is beginning to slouch, about 6 minutes. If your cheese is riper than described in the headnote, it may begin oozing fairly rapidly and you may need to remove it before it is hot throughout.

Dress the lettuces and hazelnuts very skimpily in the vinaigrette and arrange the leaves on plates, leaving the nuts behind for the moment. Garnish with the warm cherries and nest a half of the warm cheese next to each salad. (If you are using Banon, you can remove the chestnut leaves first.) Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top of the salads. Offer toasted peasant-style bread.

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