Thursday, February 10, 2011

CSA week nine - Utica greens

The greens in question here are escarole a.k.a. curly endive a.k.a. the stuff from the CSA share this week.

The Utica in question is a town in upstate New York. I'm always pleasantly surprised to find a regional cuisine that I wasn't familiar with. Yes, this is basically Italian-American, but it evolved its own way upstate to create a few dishes you won't find outside the region. There's this, salt potatoes, riggies, snappys (which I knew as Harry's white hots when I visited family in Rochester) and a few others. There's an interesting list here.

This is one of those recipes where every kitchen has its own variation. Only a few of those are up on the Web. I based mine on one by Janet Chanatry of Chanatry's SuperMarket in Utica.

1 1-pound head of escarole, cleaned and chopped into large pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
at least 1 ounce prosciutto, sliced thin and chopped
copious garlic, finely chopped
2 long Italian hot peppers, seeded and sliced thin [I couldn't find the peppers I wanted so I used Anaheims]
1/3 cup hot pickled Italian peppers, sliced thin [I couldn't find what I wanted here either so I picked peppers out of the various mixes at the Fresh Market olive bar.]
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup or more breadcrumbs
1/3 cup pecorino romano, finely grated
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

0. Preheat oven on broil.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add escarole and less salt than if you were making pasta but still a good bit. Simmer 4-6 minutes until the escarole is tender and wilted. Remove to a bowl, add cold water until the greens are cool enough to handle. Squeeze out the water and unwad the resulting wads from your squeezing.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and proscuitto and cook for 2-3 minutes until prosciutto is frizzled and garlic aromatic. Add both sorts of peppers and cook another 2-3 minutes until the raw peppers soften a little but still have some bite to them.

3. Turn off the heat and add escarole and stock to pan. Mix in breadcrumbs and cheese gradually. The goal is to soak up all the stock so be generous with the crumbs. [Chanatry's original recipe called for only 1/2 cup breadcrumbs but I used lots more. She must have meant store-bought dust-dry crumbs. My homemade crumbs absorb a lot less liquid per cup.]

4. When the mixture is no longer soupy, check to see if you used a pan that can survive going under the broiler. If not, move everything to a baking dish. If you used a cast iron pan then you can leave it where it is. Season the mixture to taste, sprinkle some more breadcrumbs on top and drizzle or spray with a little more olive oil. Broil for a few minutes until well browned.

Serve hot. The Delmonico's menu pairs it with steak. I saw another appealing suggestion of using it to top a chicken cutlet sandwich. Basically, it's both vegetable and starch so pair it with a chunk of meat.

With the prosciutto, garlic and peppers, of course this tastes pretty darn good. The question is: how much do the greens contribute to the goodness? Escarole isn't the world's most hearty or flavorful vegetable so it has a hard time standing up to the other flavors in the dish, but it's in there. It's a kinda-spinachy-letucey baseline (not a bass-line, though. No real low notes in this dish. That's why it's a side dish for meat.) the other flavors work off of. It's also the physical bulk of the dish which is important. It contributes to the dish, but it doesn't really contribute to the goodness. I want to try it again after it's fully clotted and the flavors have had time to blend a little. I think it might come together a bit better on reheating.

No comments: