When the weather is frigid, and the garden has hunkered down for the winter, it’s time to turn to chicories. These leafy vegetables are our cold-season friends, packed with vitamins and nutrients, and winter’s replacement for sweet summer greens. While chicories are also referred to as “greens,” whites, reds and purples may be a more accurate description. This broad group of leafy “greens” includes endive, escarole, frisee, Treviso and radicchio.
Chicory leaves are hardy and often bitter, so it’s best to lean into their robust qualities, rather than pretend they are a substitute for mild-mannered lettuce. Team them up with equally strong flavors: sweet and sharp dressings, astringent citrus, smoky bacon, fruit and nuts. And thanks to their sturdiness, you can also braise them, which can be an appealing way to get your veggies in the dead of winter. Not only will the cooking process tame their bitterness, it will coax out their flavors and natural sugars and enhance their sweetness.
Balsamic Braised Chicories
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves: 4 to 6
1 1/2 pounds chicories, such as endive, radicchio, escarole
1/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
Trim the bases of the chicories. Halve the endive lengthwise and cut the radicchio and escarole into wedges.
Whisk the chicken stock, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the chicories cut-side down in the skillet and cook until they begin to soften and brown, about 5 minutes, turning once.
Add the chicken stock mixture and scatter the thyme sprigs over the chicories. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and simmer until the chicories are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is reduced and the chicories are slightly caramelized. Season with additional salt to taste and serve garnished with fresh thyme.
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