Like its fellow members of the Cichorium family, radicchio and frisée, the loose-leafed escarole makes a terrific winter salad. But the plant, with its slightly bitter flavor and sturdy texture, also stands up to cooking, which is what makes it a contorni staple at so many red-sauce joints. At Jimmy’s No. 43, though, owner Jimmy Carbone eschews the simple garlic-sauté treatment for something a bit meatier: big slabs of bacon and a dressing made from the fat.
Jimmy Carbone’s Wilted Escarole and Slab Bacon
2 slices slab bacon, cut 1/4 inch thick (Carbone recommends Benton’s, Nodine’s, and Nueske’s)
1 garlic clove, sliced
Calabrese red-pepper flakes
1 cup escarole leaves, cleaned and trimmed
(1) Cook slab bacon in a hot cast-iron skillet on both sides until crisp, but not hard. Remove from pan directly to salad bowl. Do not wipe bacon, as the fat and natural drippings will become the dressing. If there isn’t sufficient bacon fat in the skillet to cook the escarole, add some extra-virgin olive oil. (2) Briefly sauté the garlic, red-pepper flakes, and escarole to quickly wilt the greens. Remove to the salad bowl, and toss with the bacon. (3) Dress the salad with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste.