Jessica Boncutter Is Refreshed by the Breslin’s Pear-and-Gorgonzola Salad

Pear salad with mountain Gorgonzola and escarole, the Breslin.
Pear salad with mountain Gorgonzola and escarole, the Breslin. Photo: Melissa Hom

Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, New York chef Ignacio Mattos went head over heels for the poussin with marrow sauce that chef Jessica Boncutter makes at San Francisco’s Bar Jules. What’s got you hungry for more, Jessica?

Who: Jessica Boncutter, chef at Bar Jules
What: A pear, escarole, Gorgonzola, and walnut salad
Where: The Breslin, New York
When: December, 2009

“On a recent trip to New York, I was in April Bloomfield and Kenny Friedman’s new place the Breslin. Now we all know April’s style of cooking is very rich and robust, and we love her for it! But the most delicious thing I had was actually a salad — this was a great mountain Gorgonzola, escarole, and walnut salad. The pears are served perfectly ripe and chilled, then tossed with crisp escarole and Gorgonzola dressing which is nicely balanced with vinegar and crème fraîche.The walnuts are candied and spiced. So lovely and simple.”

The Breslin chef, April Bloomfield, responds:

“I love salads — I love making them, I love when they’re full of flavor. I grew up eating salads that weren’t very nice, so I kind of like to make them a little bit more punchy and more attractive, so you want to eat more and more and more. The pear salad came about because my menu’s quite meat-centric, and I wanted to put something on there that didn’t have any meat in it.

I was kind of struggling a little bit, because it’s winter and there’s not much food out there right now: It’s all apples and potatoes and pears, so I decided to get some Comice pears and just chop them up. They’re really full of pear flavor — they’re juicy when they’re perfectly ripe, and they give great texture to the salad. I decided to put some escarole in for bitterness to complement the sweetness of the pear; that’s crunchy and it adds nice texture. We candied some walnuts — we fry them and then we kind of toss them in some chili, which adds another level of crunchiness.”