I can, however, recall a time when I had a pretty terrible experience at this restaurant. We went there with my in-laws and had to wait an unreasonable amount of time for a table (even by Cheesecake Factory standards), Mike’s meal arrived stone cold, and the salad I ordered wasn’t anything to write home about. It was called the french country salad or something like that and the description on the menu sounded right up my alley: greens tossed in a vinegarette dressing with roasted beets, pecans, and goat cheese. However, when the salad arrived it was swimming in dressing, the beets were mushy, and the goat cheese was limited to two small dabs (unusual for a restaurant that prides itself on huge portions).
As awful as the execution of this salad was, I still liked the idea of the ingredients together so when I found myself with both beets and goat cheese that needed to be used up, I decided to create my own version of it. I did a bit of googling to get ideas and it turns out that there are tons of variations of this salad out there. I drew inspiration from a few of the recipes and ended up with a simple salad that far exceeded the verison I sampled at Cheesecake Factory in every aspect except for the fact that I couldn't order a piece of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake after I finished it.
My version of the French Country Salad
I always feel like writing out quantities in salad recipes is kind of a waste since it’s tough to measure it out and you should really just go by how much of each ingredient you want in the finished product. So the quantities below really are just guidelines. And if you have some roasted asparagus on hand, I think it would make a great addition to this salad.
Even though I usually dismiss individual plating as too fussy, it really does work better for this salad. The first time I experimented with making it I made a huge bowl for my family’s Sunday dinner and it didn’t work too well because you really want a good balance of the ingredients and the dressing to thoroughly coat the salad and beets, which is harder to do in a large bowl than individual plates.
2 medium beets, scrubbed
~6 cups salad greens
~4 oz. goat cheese
2 cups pecans
1 tablespoon melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ tablespoon honey
1) Make candied pecans by tossing the nuts with the butter and vanilla, then adding the brown sugar and stirring to coat the nuts.
2) Bake pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet at 375 for about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. I would start checking them after ten minutes because the sugar can burn quickly. Once the nuts are golden brown and the sugar has solidified, remove them from the oven. Let cool completely.
3) Rub each of the beets lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Wrap in tin foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about an hour (longer or shorter depending on the size of your beets), or until a fork goes through them easily.
4) Allow beets to cool, then peel and dice into small pieces.
5) Make dressing by whisking ingredients together. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over beets and greens and toss.
6) Divide salad evenly among plates and top with crumbled goat cheese and pecans.