One of the items I made in last Saturday's cooking class was something I'd never made before: escarole. I think the only way I've ever had escarole at all is in soup. It is bitter, although we learned that shade-grown escarole, which is lighter in color, is less bitter. I made this recipe the other night to go with our chicken. The escarole I bought was quite dark, and thus pretty bitter, but I find that goes nicely with a rich main course. And it couldn't be easier to make.
Escarole with Pancetta
1 head escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped (I should have gone to Trader Joe's, because they have those nice packages of diced pancetta, but instead I got sliced pancetta at Whole Foods, which I then tried to chop but sort of ended up shredding. It turned out fine. It is pancetta, after all.)
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional (I omitted this, because on Saturday I found it just too hot and spicy.)
¼ cup dry white wine
Cut the escarole in half lengthwise and remove the darkest outer leaves. Trim off the first inch or so from the tops of the remaining leaves. Cut the escarole cross-wise into about 1-inch strips, right down until you get to the stem. Submerge the leaves in cold water and agitate to remove any loose dirt. Drain and gently shake to remove excess water. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and set aside. Try not to eat it all. (In the class, we took the pan off the heat at this point too and set it aside until we were almost ready to eat. The escarole cooks up fast, so it makes a great last-minute side dish.)
Return the pan to medium heat and add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the escarole and white wine. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the escarole is tender and wilted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with the reserved pancetta, and serve.