Butter Lettuce Salad with Honey Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Ver Jus Honey Vinaigrette
ByAlvin Binuya of Madoka on Bainbridge Island, WA
2 1/2 cups California walnut halves or large pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
Canola oil, for deep frying
Ver Jus Vinaigrette
1/2 cup ver jus
1/2 tablespoon shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup honey
1 cup olive oil
2 heads (about 10 ounces) butter lettuce, trimmed, cleaned, torn into large pieces
1/2 apple, Granny Smith, large, finely julienned (in matchstick-like strips)
1/2 cup ver jus vinaigrette
4 slices (1 ounce each) blue cheese
4 tablespoons honey walnuts, coarsely chopped
12-16 California walnut halves, for garnish
To make the honey walnuts, put the walnuts in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil, and drain. Cover again with water, bring to a boil, and drain. Add the sugar and honey to the saucepan with the drained walnuts, stir to combine, then add just enough water to cover the walnuts (about 1 cup). Bring to a boil again, and reduce heat to simmer until the liquid has reduced to a syrup-like consistency; it will also become darker, but don't let it burn. This can take approximately 30 minutes. Drain the walnuts well, then spread on a plate. As they begin to cool, separate the walnuts so they do not stick together.
In a heavy pan or deep fryer, heat about 2 inches of canola oil to 375º F. Carefully immerse the walnuts into the oil, and fry for 1 1/2 minutes or until the nuts turn a light toasted color. Do this in three or four batches, if necessary, so the nuts are not crowded in the oil. As the nuts are done, spread them on a plate to cool (not on cloth or paper towels, as they might stick).
To make the ver jus vinaigrette, combine the ver jus, shallot, salt, pepper and honey in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and blend. With the machine still running slowly pour in the olive oil; the dressing will form a smooth emulsion. Transfer to a clean jar for storage.
To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, toss the butter lettuce and apple together with the vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens among 4 serving plates. Top each salad with a slice of blue cheese and 1 tablespoon honey walnuts, then garnish with a few walnut halves.