Escarole, White Beans, and Apple-Smoked Bacon
This dish pairs well with a wide range of foods, from roasted meats to fish. It’s also a year-round component, hearty enough for winter (especially if you substitute blanched cabbage for the escarole) but also perfectly at home in summer. I often make the stirring of butter into a dish at the end of a recipe optional, but it really pulls the flavors of this one together.
- 1 cup dried white runner beans or Great Northern beans
- Coarse salt
- 1 large head escarole, cut into wedges with the root end intact
- 3 ounces apple-smoked slab bacon, in one piece
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ onion, peeled and halved
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Freshley ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Soak the beans overnight in enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Drain
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water.
- Cook the escarole in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove it with tongs and submerge it in the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve its color. Squeeze out the excess liquid, remove the core, and cut the escarole crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.
- Put the beans, bacon, bay leaf, onions, garlic, and stock in a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are cooked, about 50 minutes. Use tongs to pick out and discard the bay leaf and onion.
- Strain the beans in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid. Use tongs to pick out and set aside the bacon and garlic. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the bacon into ¼-inch dice and set aside. Mash the garlic into a paste and stir it into the strained stock. You should have approximately ½ cup of liquid. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add the escarole, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the beans and reserved bacon, then the reserved cooking liquid. Stir together and season. Stir in the butter to enrich the flavors.
- Transfer the contents of the pan to a warmed serving bowl, and present family-style from the center of the table.
Pairing: Grilled Marinated Pork Chops Variations: Savoy cabbage can take the place of the escarole.
Flavor Building: For a slightly spicier dish, replace the bacon with sliced chorizo and finish the dish with chopped cilantro. Or stir in 1 pound of sliced, sautéed wild or cultivated mushrooms at the end.