Escarole appeared in my Mystery Box last week, setting me up for one of my favorite situations: discovering something new to work with in the kitchen. I've heard of escarole and have even eaten it in restaraunts, but for some reason, I've never been moved to cook with it. That, it appears, is about to change.
Escarole is considered a endive, making it a member of the daisy family. It's high in fiber and rich in vitamins, especially A and K. Less bitter than it's cousins frisee and radicchio, it can be eaten raw in salads, added to soups, or sauteed.
It's a beautiful vegetable, with gently curled leaves that fan out from a central core. Ranging in color from pale cream in the center to a bright green in the outer leaves, it was a pleasure just to look at. Turns out, it's slightly bitter taste is a pleasure to eat, too.
For this recipe, I used one half of a large head of escarole. After removing the core, I ran my knife through the leaves for a rough chop, then washed them well in two changes of water before leaving them to drain in a colander.
Typically in a braise, a liquid is added to the pan after sauteing to create the steam needed for a hot, moist cooking environment. In this case, I found that the combination of the juice released by the apples and the water still clinging to the escarole to be enough. If your pan seems too dry, you can add a little more water or apple juice.
Braised Escarole with Apples and Bacon serves four
2 strips of bacon, cut into a large dice
1 small crisp apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (I used a winesap)
10 cups (approximately) escarole, rough chopped, washed and drained
salt and pepper
Saute bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. When it has released its fat, push it off to one side and add apples. Continue to cook, removing bacon when it crisps and placing on a paper towel to drain.
When the apples have started to brown, add the escarole and toss with a pair of tongs to coat evenly with the pan juices. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cover with a lid, lower the heat, and let it braise for 8 to 10 minutes, until escarole is completely wilted and soft and has turned a dark shade of green. Sprinkle on the reserved bacon.
Serves four as a side dish. For a main dish, try tossing with a shaped pasta such as orecchiette and serving with a wedge of aged cheddar for a simple autumn dinner. Or do as I did this morning and remove a single portion to a small frying pan, crack an egg on top and cook it sunny side up for a hearty breakfast.