The kitchen staff at the Inn at Little Washington nicknamed this dish "the fluffy" because chef-owner Patrick O'Connell constantly reminds them that it should look light and airy, "as if the ingredients floated from the sky down onto the plate." That is easier said than done. However, the balance of sweetness, salt, bitterness and crunch will be delicious regardless of your presentation skills. One piece of advice: Find the freshest arugula at the farmers market or elsewhere. The bagged greens lack the peppery bite that make this dish shine.
- 1 8-ounce block Parmesan cheese
- 12 very thin slices country ham, preferably Virginia ham (see TIP)
- 1 ripe pear (unpeeled), halved and cored
- 1 bunch baby arugula, washed and stemmed
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (see NOTE)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Cracked black pepper
Use a vegetable peeler or cheese slicer to shave the Parmesan cheese into ribbons.
Use a sharp knife to trim all fat from the ham slices; cut the ham into wide ribbons. Intertwine a few ribbons of cheese and ham on each individual plate to form small, fluffy mounds.
Use a mandoline or sharp knife to cut the pear into very thin slices. Add a few pear slices to each mound of ham and cheese.
Toss a few baby arugula leaves on each plate, then sprinkle each portion with the pine nuts and drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with the cracked black pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from "Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine," by Patrick O'Connell (Bulfinch Press, 2004).
Tested by Jane Black.
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