Greens like escarole, endive, and the belovedly bitter radicchio are staples in winter, providing a sturdy counterpoint to warm, rich flavors as bold elements in a salad, such as frisee against crispy bacon or radicchio against crusty Jerusalem artichokes. But there is also lots of potential for forgoing their rawness in favor of heat: The bitterness is toned down while the sweetness increases, creating a compelling balance of flavors.
This recipe, adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle, cooks down chopped radicchio with pancetta, so it almost braises into a sweet, sticky, porky mess. Stirred into an otherwise basic risotto, it dominates with its bold flavor (still, if you're not a fan of radicchio, this is probably not the recipes for you).
During cooking its appealing purple color gets muted, but the flavor is quite unique. I drizzled mine with a little good thick aged balsamic (the thin harsh stuff is better left out) to accent the radicchio's coaxed sweetness.
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces pancetta, minced
- 1 pound radicchio, coarsely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 2/3 cup white wine
- 5 cups hot chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Warm a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat and add 2 tablepoons of oil with the pancetta. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the pancetta releases its fat and begins to crisp, then add the radicchio with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the fat and cook until wilted down, 6 to 7 minutes.
In the meantime, heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Saute the onion until soft, about 8 minutes, then add the rice. Stir until the edges of the rice kernels turn translucent, then add the wine and stir until it evaporates.
Add the warm broth little by little, stirring occassionally, as it is absorbed slowly. Keep the risotto constantly at a lazy bubble, adjusting the heat as necessary. Halfway through, stir in the racicchio-pancetta mixture. Total rice cooking time should be about 20 minutes, ending with a somewhat soupy and not-too-stiff consistency. Season to taste.
Stir in the butter and Parmesan and remove from the heat. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately.