Last Friday afternoon I got an IM from my fashionable and fabulous friend Diana asking if I wanted to join her for an inpromtu dinner party at her place that evening. So here's the thing about Diana. As my friend Jessica observed, Diana is the kind of person who, had she lived in the 19th century, would have hosted a salon, full of clever, well-read, terribly interesting people. She always knows how to pull an interesting group together and her gatherings are known to go on well into the wee hours of the night.
"My friend Mark is making a pork loin," she informed me. "It has a reduction!" Now I've been wanting to be a little more spontaneous, I love the idea of a reduction, and the idea of a last minute dinner party seemed like something you'd see in a movie. People dropping by. Throwing food together on the fly. So breezy. So casual. So summer. Naturally I was in.
"I have corn," I volunteered, thinking back to a recipe I had seen in Sara Foster's brilliant cookbook, Fresh Every Day, that I'd been wanting to try out.
(For the blue cheese vinaigrette)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(For the salad)
3 ears of corn, in the husk
1 lb sugar snap peas, stem ends and strings removed
4 cups watercress, washed and trimmed of tough stems
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, plus a little more for garnish
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and then soak corn in the sink or a big bowl full of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes. The corn will float, so you might want to weigh the corn down with something heavy.
While the corn is soaking, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and chives. Slowly add the olive oil and the canola oil, one at a time in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until all the oils are incorporated. Stir in the crumbled blue cheese and taste for seasoning. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. (Makes 1 1/2 cups)
Once the corn has soaked, place it on a baking sheet with sides and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
While the corn is roasting, blanch the sugar snap peas. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Add the sugar snap peas to the boiling water and blanche for 10 to 30 seconds, until they turn bright green. Remove them from the boiling water and immediately place them in the ice water to stop the cooking.
The color should go from a sort of dull, waxy green (on the left) to a bright fresh green (on the right).
When the corn finishes roasting, remove from the oven and let cool. Once the corn has come to room temperature remove the husks and silks and cut off the kernels into a large bowl.
Add the sugar snap peas (which you can either leave whole or cut into smaller pieces), the watercress, 1/4 cup of the crumbled blue cheese, and the chives. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette, taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. To serve, transfer the salad to a large serving bowl and scatter with the remaining crumbled blue cheese and the chives.
Ok, so people LOVED this dish. In addition to the amazingly fantastic pork loin with the reduction (it ALSO had a glaze, by the way), the salad was kind of a hit at the party. People raved, they had second and third helpings, and I got text messages and emails in the days to follow asking for the recipe.
The thing is, it's a very simple recipe. Basically just corn, sugar snap peas and crumbles of blue cheese, and as such, the quality of the ingredients is very important. Use very fresh corn and a good quality cheese. I wouldn't recommend anything that is pre-crumbled. Now, I already have a recipe for a corn and snap pea salad on this site, but this one has a very different feel. It's a little more decadent thanks to the richness of the salty, pungent blue cheese which is a natural partner for the sweet corn and the crispy sugar snap peas. The salad is the perfect accompaniment for a summer supper although it's great for a light little lunch. The next day, Mark had had it spooned over an avocado which he sliced in half. Very nice. Do give it a try.
Serves 6 or so as a side dish.