Thanksgiving? Thanks-living for this salad.

Poached Pear Salad

Fall is definitely my favourite time of year and while it’s a super busy period at work (it’s event season in my PR world and I have 3 productions planned over the next month), Thanksgiving weekend is such a welcome break to regroup and spend time with my family and chosen family before going back to the races.

Which also means there will be a few dinners planned with lots of tasty temptations. This salad combines the best flavours of the season for a healthier alternative (or complement!) to the usual Thanksgiving dinner sides. Healthier yes…boring, no. What I love about this recipe is the flavour contrasts that’ll perk up even the most traditionally-set tastebuds. The sweetness of bourbon poached pears and candied pecans stands out against the sharp bite of a lemony Dijon dressing, and bitter arugula greens.

I’ll admit, this recipe is a bit of a production with many steps, but the pears and candied nuts can be prepared well in advance and then just throw the salad together at the last minute. If time isn’t on your side, use raw sliced pears and plain pecans. But I would add a teaspoon of honey to the dressing for a touch of sweetness.

When I made this for my office Thanksgiving potluck lunch last week, it was a hit with the crowd….I think it was the bourbon in the pears.

Serves 4


  • 6 cups arugula
  • 3 Bosc pears
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds


  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Method – Poached Pears

  1. For the poached pears, peel them and slice in half lengthwise trimming the stem and root end.
  2. Prepare the poaching liquid: combine the wine, bourbon, water, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and add the pear halves – there should be enough liquid to just cover the pears.
  3. Simmer for about 20 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when the point of a paring knife pierces the flesh with barely any resistance.
  4. Remove from the poaching liquid and set aside to cool. When they’re cool to the touch, remove the core with a sharp knife and slice into ½-inch slices. The poached pears can be made well in advance and kept covered for up to a week in the fridge.


Method – Candied Pecans

  1. Combine the brown sugar and 1 tbsp water in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves
  2. Toast the pecans in a dry nonstick pan on medium heat for 4 – 5 minutes. When you can JUST begin to smell their faint nutty fragrance, that’s enough…turn off the heat.
  3. Add the brown sugar and water mixture and stir quickly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until all of the liquid has evaporated and the pecans start to become sticky – this means the caramel coating is starting to crystalize.
  4. Pour out immediately onto parchment paper and let cool completely before separating into individual nut pieces, about 10 minutes


Method – Dressing

  1. Combine the Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together until emulsified. Or shake everything together in an airtight / mason jar – this trick works really well to make an emulsion with mustard-based dressings

Now the easy part. Toss the arugula leaves, poached pear slices, candied pecans and pomegranate seeds in a large bowl with 3 – 4 tablespoons of the dressing.