Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Braised Escarole

(April 12, 2007)
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Mike asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren, The other day I bought what I thought was lettuce for a salad. But, when we ate the greens, they were really tough. I'm not sure if it was lettuce or something else that I've never seen before. I read your column religiously, so I thought you could help. Thanks.

Lauren says...

Oh, it must be escarole, which looks just like a squatty head of romaine lettuce, but it's tough and not suitable for a raw leafy salad. It's delicious, though, and a perfect choice when wanting to serve a braised green without the inherent bitterness in vegetables like broccoli rabe and kale, etc.

All you do is cut off the bottom base of the head of escarole and separate the leaves. Rinse the leaves well, then stack and cut them into 1-inch slices. Spin dry. Store the leaves this way in a large freezer bag lined with paper towels, in the refrigerator until ready to cook (can be done a few days ahead).

When ready to cook, all you do is heat a shallow layer of extra-virgin olive oil in a deep-sided skillet and, when the oil is hot but not smoking, carefully add the cut greens, using tongs to turn them as they wilt a bit in the hot oil. Add some hot red pepper flakes, for some spunk and several minced cloves of garlic. Pour in a healthy layer of some flavorful stock, preferably homemade (vegetable or chicken), just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet with - to 1-inch of liquid; then cover the pot. When you see steam escaping, reduce the heat to low and simmer the escarole until tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Uncover, add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, a knob of softened butter. Serve hot, allowing some of the surrounding broth to accompany the greens.

Here's a formal recipe for Braised Escarole, but feel free to use the recipe for Broccoli Rabe served over rigatoni, substituting escarole for the broccoli rabe.

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Braised Escarole

Yield: served 6

Escarole

Although escarole looks very much like a head of lettuce to use in your salad, it's tougher and really should be braised to be fully enjoyed. Available year-round, this vegetable is, like most leafy greens, incredibly healthy and deserves a lot more attention when shoppers are in the market searching for something delicious to serve as a side dish with dinner. Also, escarole, when served in the way featured in the following recipe, would be perfect served over hot pasta, making it a more substantial main dish. Any time I've suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that's unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management to get more information.

    Special Equipment:

  • 12-inch, deep-sided skillet with a lid
    Ingredients:

  • 2 large bunches heads escarole
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or use low-sodium canned or boxed broth)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter, optional
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
  • Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1) To set up: Slice off the bottom base of both heads of escarole and rinse each leaf well. Stack the leaves and slice them into 1-inch slices. Spin dry. Bring stock to a boil in a small saucepan and concentrate the flavor by reducing (uncovered) to 2 cups.

2) To sear and simmer the escarole: Heat a 12-inch, deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and, when hot, add greens. Use tongs to turn the leaves in the hot oil and, when just beginning to wilt, stir in the crushed pepper flakes, if using, and the garlic. Add the broth and cover the pot. Bring the broth to a boil and, when you see steam escaping, turn the heat down to low. Cook the escarole until tender but not mushy, 6 to 8 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid and redistributing the leaves.

3) To serve: Uncover the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Put individual portions of the cooked greens in bowls along with some of the hot broth. Serve immediately, passing grated or shaved parmesan at the table, if desired, along with a peppermill that works.

    Lauren Logo Timing is Everything

  • Escarole leaves are very sturdy and can be cleaned, cut and spun dry several days ahead. Keep them in the refrigerator, in a large freezer bag, wrapped in paper towel.
  • The garlic can be peeled ahead and kept in a jar, in the refrigerator. It can also be minced early in the day and kept well covered and chilled until ready to cook.
  • The stock can and should be made well ahead and kept frozen in tubs of different sizes.

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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Amazon.com.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.