Warm goat cheese is definitely something to love. When pierced with a fork, fried goat cheese nuggets melt over greens and mingle with dressing. It's astounding. Plus, it's pronounced "goaty" flavor is mellowed by a quick fry. It's a perfect pairing for peppery radish slices and sweet spring snap pea pods.
While warm goat cheese does make an excellent dressing in itself, this tangy, nutty fennel-pecan vinaigrette brings out the grassy flavors of the salad greens and cuts through the cheese's richness. Panko breadcrumbs stay crisp longer and have a more pleasant, crunchy texture than homemade breadcrumbs (which you should still know how to make).
Yes, I got excited over having a massive fryer at our disposal for the first time in the kitchen at the W Austin's TRACE restaurant (hence our hugely popular avocado fries). Therefore, these delightful little balls will need to be deep-fried. I've tried frying breaded goat cheese in a pot at home. They leak, then fall apart. I maintain that everyone should make room for a quart-sized deep-fryer in their kitchen. It's the same size as the quart of dried-up paint you refuse to throw away, and at least a hundred times more useful. Dig?
For the salad
- 2 small handfuls snap pea pods, trimmed
- 4 ounces goat cheese (plain or flavored), rolled into cherry tomato-sized balls and chilled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 cups mixed salad greens, washed and dried
- 4 radishes sliced paper-thin on a mandoline or v-slicer
For the pecan-fennel vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pecans, toasted
For the pecan-fennel vinaigrette:
- Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
For the goat cheese:
- Dunk each ball into the egg and roll lightly in breadcrumbs. Chilling them beforehand will help them keep their round shape. When all the goat cheese is breaded, return to refrigerator until ready to fry.
- When ready, preheat fryer to 350, drop in goat cheese and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a layer of paper towels.
- In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the snap peas for about a minute until bright green, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water until cool, drain and set aside.
- Plate salad greens with pea pods and radishes and freshly fried goat cheese.
- Drizzle with pecan-fennel vinaigratte and serve immediately.