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Warm Pancetta-Wrapped Endive Salad

Warm Pancetta-Wrapped Endive Salad
Belgian endives, prized for their refreshing crispness and sharp flavor, would be overwhelmingly bitter were it not for the labor-intensive cultivation method of blanching, in which the heads are grown covered with sand in total darkness to yield plump, pale, mild-tasting shoots.

Ingredients:

  • 18 paper-thin slices pancetta, 6 oz. total weight
  • 9 heads Belgian endive (chicory/ witloof), 1 to 2 lb.
  • 5 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 head frisee lettuce, leaves separated and carefully rinsed
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

Uncurl each pancetta slice so that it forms a long strip, and cut each piece crosswise to form 2 equal pieces. Trim the stem end of each endive, being careful not to separate the leaves, and cut lengthwise into quarters.

Position a rack in the upper part of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add 3 Tbs. of the lemon juice and the endive quarters and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the endive quarters to paper towels to drain, then place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss well and season to taste with pepper.

Working with 1 endive quarter at a time, wrap a piece of pancetta around it. Arrange the wrapped endives in a single layer in a baking dish, allowing ample space between them. Bake until the endives are tender when pierced with a knife and the pancetta begins to crisp on the edges, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 Tbs. lemon juice and 4 Tbs. olive oil and the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the frisée. Toss lightly.

To serve, arrange the frisée on warmed individual plates. Place the endive atop the frisée. Drizzle the endive with any remaining vinaigrette. Serve warm, garnished with lemon wedges.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Complete Seasons Cookbook, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 2000).