You Bought Escarole! Now What?

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Cichorium endivia Endive Escarole

One of the pleasures of living in Southern California — and there are many — is the availability of unusual vegetables. Many of them are specialized versions of something you already love, like the Martian green Romanesco cauliflower. Some are exotic varieties from another hemisphere, such as oca, a technicolor root vegetable that can’t decide if it wants to be an Easter egg or a potato. Others like puntarelle are so crazy you might not know what to do with them. Then there are classic, old-world vegetables that aren’t so much unusual as they are unusually hard to come by. I’m talking about the chicories like escarole and curly endive.

Romanesco Cauliflower and Oca

Romanesco Cauliflower and Oca

Puntarelle

Puntarelle

Cichorium endivia: Escarole and Curly Endive

The best examples of escarole or curly endive are a full 12 inches across with creamy yellow hearts in a nest of spiky green leaves pointing out in all directions. These heads are so big they can hardly be stuffed into a bag. Once home, they fill the refrigerator drawer so tightly it will barely close. When you’re done wrangling one of these chicories you’ll probably wonder why you even bought such a thing.

Well, don’t fret, when you’re lucky enough to come across a perfect specimen it’s a thrill to carry it home and explore all its possibilities. After all, it’s so large and its taste and texture are so varied that there are several wonderful things that can be done with just one head of chicory.

The tightly bound tendrils in the center are very tender with just a hint of the bitterness that tells you they belong to the chicory family. Use these pale inside leaves in a delicately dressed salad or as a garnish on a simple veggie crostini drizzled with very good olive oil.

The further from the center of the escarole you go the bolder your culinary creations can get. These leaves can be torn it into pieces and thrown into soups. Try a salad with creamy dressing and crunchy croutons. A classic version involves pork belly lardons and a poached egg. Farther from the center, the palm-sized leaves are sturdy enough to support warm salads or get baked into a frittata. The spiky outermost sections can be braised, sauteed, and even grilled to tame their wildest tendencies.

It’s these outer leaves I’d like to feature today in a pasta riff on a classic French bistro-inspired warm chicken liver salad that’s always sharp with vinegar and rich with chicken fat. All I’ve done is add pasta. Pappardelle with Escarole, Sautéed Chicken Livers and Caramelized Shallots. GREG

Pappardelle with Sautéed Chicken Livers and Escarole

Pappardelle with Sautéed Chicken Livers and Escarole

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2-4Source Inspired by Michele Lamy and Melissa ClarkPublished

You may substitute curly endive or another bitter green from the chicory family.

Pappardelle with Sautéed Chicken Livers and Escarole

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled and sliced)
  • ¼ pound escarole (trimmed, leaves torn and washed well, see note)
  • kosher salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • ½ pound dried pappardelle pasta (or other wide flat noodle)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 pound chicken livers (cleaned and cut into 1-inch chunks)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 tablespoon dry vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Directions

In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic, and cook until fragrant and just beginning to color, about 2 minutes. Stir in escarole; season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pappardelle, and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and transfer to a large bowl. Toss the noodles with the cooked escarole, butter and half of the reserved pasta water. Set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add shallots, rosemary, and crushed red pepper; cook stirring often until golden brown and crunchy at the edges, about 6 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, swirling the pan to coat. Add chicken livers in as close to a single layer as possible and cook without disturbing them until well browned on the bottom, about 1-2 minutes. Add the minced garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vermouth and vinegar, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release the browned bits. Continue to cook until the chicken livers are cooked through, but still pink on the inside, 1 to 2 more minutes more.

Scrape the chicken livers into the bowl with the pappardelle and escarole. Stir in the parsley and remaining pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

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