There is a special place in my heart for creamy green bean casserole. The kind with the canned crunchy fried onions, and the canned cream of mushroom soup. You know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t you should try it at least once. But sometimes that Thanksgiving meal can be a little heavy on the creamy casseroles and you want (and likely need) something light and refreshing in the mix to balance things out. This salad is a delicious way to provide some balance in your meal while still keeping is special.
Something about the combination of warm toasted pecans, tangy sweet cranberries and robust blue cheese just sings of the season we’re entering. The weather is cooler and richer flavors are in order. Although, I’d eat this salad in the summertime with no problem.
You can serve these as lovely first course salads on individual salad plates, or arrange them on a large platter and allow guests to serve themselves. The bibb lettuce leaves hold up well, so there’s little need to worry about them tearing, unless they’ve been sitting too long so don’t prepare them all the way too far in advance. If you’re really needing this to be a quick and painless salad you can tear up a bunch of bibb lettuce, toss in the dressed beans, cranberries, blue cheese and pecans and serve this as a large serve-yourself salad. You might want to double the dressing if you plan to serve it that way, though.
You can cook the beans up to 2 days ahead and keep them in the fridge. The beans also hold up well in the fridge after being dressed, so you can prepare them up to that point hours ahead of time, but not longer than a day. Mix in the cranberries, but not the blue cheese or pecans, they’ll get soggy if they sit too long. Sprinkle on the blue cheese and pecans right before serving.
I tend to under-dress salads when serving them to a group. I hesitated to add all the dressing to the beans, but it was the perfect amount. There’s just enough that drips off onto the lettuce.
Haricots Verts Salad with Blue Cheese, Pecans and Cranberries
From Fine Cooking
1/2 pound haricots verts (french green beans) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 to 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
6 large bibb lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Add the beans and cook until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain the beans, then plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again, pat dry and move to a bowl. If making ahead, place beans in an airtight container and put them in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Prepare the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard and olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Toss beans and cranberries in the dressing to coat evenly. You can refrigerate the beans at this point for up to 1 day.
To serve: divide beans evenly among the lettuce leaves and sprinkle each with pecans and blue cheese.
If you have young kids, you know how hard it is to get out on “special occasions” like New Years Eve or Valentine’s Day when everyone else is wanting to get out as well, babysitters are hard to come by! A dinner at home can be just as wonderful as a night out. A simple steak and potato dinner was perfect for us this year.
Instead of a regular baked potato as a side for our steak dinner on Valentine’s day, I decided to get just a little fancy and make twice baked potatoes. Since Ben and I are both big blue cheese fans, these blue cheese laden potatoes seemed like the perfect choice.
I fixed these earlier in the day and kept them in the fridge until it got closer to dinner time, which makes these a great make-ahead side dish. If you haven’t made twice baked potatoes before, they’re really fairly simple and easily flavored to your liking. Bake russet potatoes, let cool for a while, cut off the tops, scoop out the insides, mix up with whatever you like, scoop back into the potato skins and bake again.
No matter what you’re going to mix in, always mix in butter, sour cream, milk or cream and salt first. This makes for a smooth and creamy base. From there you can add your choice of cheese, green onion, cooked and crumbled bacon, or herbs. Make sure to taste and season as you’re mixing up the filling so that your potatoes are not underseasoned.
The blue cheese flavor is subtle but present and is a great compliment to a nice bite of perfectly grilled steak. I’m so thankful to be married to a man who knows how to grill a steak and is happy to do it! I used 2 ounces of blue cheese in the potato mixture and a few crumbles on top.
The recipe below is for two, so double or triple as needed.
Blue Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes
2 russet potatoes
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1-2 teaspoons salt
3 ounces blue cheese, divided
black pepper, optional
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Rinse and scrub potatoes under cold water, then pat dry. Poke with a fork a few times, rub with olive oil then place on oven rack with a sheet of foil underneath to catch drips, and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes depending on their size.
Let cool for 15-20 minutes.
Cut off the top third of the potatoes and scoop out the insides into a large bowl, leaving some of the potato intact all around so that the skins can still hold their shape easily.
Mash potatoes with butter, sour cream, milk and 1 teaspoon of salt until well combined and smooth. Fold in 2 1/2 ounces of blue cheese, then taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Scoop filling back into the potato skins.
At this point bake the potatoes again or store covered in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F , place potatoes on a foil lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese, and bake for 20 minutes if baking immediately, 25-30 minutes if baking from chilled.
A good friend of mine made this when we met up for a playdate at her house a while back. I say “a while back” because it feels like just a few months ago but I think it might have been over a year ago, which reminds me just how quickly a year goes by. I can’t believe it’s almost 2014.
Candace paired this rich and savory tart with a spinach salad loaded with berries, which made for a well balanced lunch. I’m still amazed that she fixed this lunch for us since she’d recently had a baby. My meal of choice when having people over for a playdate is Chick-fil-A…or goldfish and raisins.
The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and is something I can definitely see myself making again, especially for a lunch or brunch. It’s impressive but not too time or skill intensive. It’s also fine served room temp, so you can make it hours ahead or even the day before and re-warm it. I added bacon to the original recipe because I don’t see anything wrong with adding bacon to pretty much everything. Maybe my new motto for 2014 will be, “Put some bacon on it!” inspired by Portlandia… But of course it’s amazing without the bacon and fits into a vegetarian diet that way.
Other than the bacon, the rest of the recipe is unchanged. You can use a tart pan or pie plate for this. I had planned to use a tart pan because it’s just prettier than a pie plate. Something about that fancy fluted edge. But the dough recipe provided wouldn’t fit in my 10 inch tart pan, so I used a 9-inch pie plate. Thankfully the lovely filling makes up for the unimpressive pie plate. The dough wasn’t impossible to work with, but it was a little crumbly so I had to do some patching up in places. It was delicious and not hard to whip up in the food processor, so I’d definitely recommend it over a store bought crust.
If you don’t like blue cheese you probably haven’t read to this point in the blog post, and if for some reason you have I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be a fan of this tart. Which makes me sad, because it’s delicious…if you like blue cheese. I think you could use goat cheese, but haven’t tried it so I’m not sure how that will effect the final product. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!
A few tips:
Refrigerate your crust before filling to minimize shrinking during baking.
For making ahead, you can prep everything, store it in the fridge and assemble right before baking.
If using bacon, this cold oven method of cooking it has become my new favorite. No greasy pan to clean and your house won’t smell like bacon for days.
Make sure to let the tart cool or otherwise the filling won’t have time to thicken and could be runny.
1 Savory Tart Shell, recipe below, in a 9-inch tart or pie pan and ready to use
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
4-8 slices of good bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme and rosemary
Fine sea salt for sprinkling
1 and 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
1 large egg
For Tart Shell
Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
Add in butter chunks and pulse until butter is in pea sized pieces.
Add egg and pulse until dough comes together. It will still be slightly crumbly.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times so that it comes together. Flatten into a disk.
Roll out into a 12 inch circle then transfer to your 9-inch tart pan or pie plate. Press out any air bubbles and trim or crimp edges as desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Cook potatoes in a medium sized saucepan, just covered in water, over medium heat. Simmer until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the water and drain. Lay the slices out on a clean dishtowel and gently pat dry with another clean towel or paper towels.
Arrange potatoes in concentric circles on the bottom of the crust, overlapping slightly, covering the crust entirely.
Sprinkle cheese over potatoes, followed by bacon and herbs.
Whisk egg and cream in small bowl and pour over everything.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake tart for 45 to 50 minutes until bubbly and browned. Cool on wire rack. Serve the tart warm, room temp or cold.