I can in no way take credit for dreaming up charred radicchio. I had it at Trattoria Lucca when my buddy Mike made reservations for a family-style meal. It was superb and I set out to making some of my own.
Most may know radicchio as the little chunks of bitter, purple lettucey-cabbage-like stuff in bagged lettuce mixes. You know, the one you pick out and scoot to the edge of your plate in a pile while not-so-subtly scrunching up your nose. Yeah, that stuff. In whole form, it looks like miniature, purple-white striated heads of cabbage. Don’t scrunch up your nose too much though, it really is quite the powerhouse of a vegetable. It contains a sedative/analgesic compound and flavonoid antioxidants. And like other chicories (think endive), radicchio contains inulin which helps to regulate blood sugar. And, hey, if that doesn’t sell ya, it can also help control intestinal parasites! Woot! Woot!
I will warn you, radicchio by itself can be bitter. However, grilling and charring help mellow its natural bitterness. Adding some vinegar, a tad of sweetness, some fat, and a bit of lemon juice further round out that bitterness and turn it into a tasty treat.
So, hey, don’t just eat it to protect yourself from intestinal parasites—eat it ’cause it’s tasty!
- 1 TBSP Oil for searing (use your rendered duck fat, or beef tallow!)
- 2 heads of radicchio, quartered (keep the little stump on so it doesn’t fall apart)
- 2 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP Olive Oil
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 garlic clove, mashed and minced finely
- Plenty of cracked black pepper
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp honey or sugar of choice (you can leave this out, but may need more lemon juice on the back end)
- 6 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked but not crispy (or better yet, 6 slices porchetta)
- 2 TBSP shredded Asiago
- 1 TBSP chopped parsley or celery leaves
- About 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (more or less to taste–it helps reduce any bitterness that may be left)
Heat oil of choice in skillet (cast iron preferred) until just below smoke point. While the oil is heating, mix the vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, black pepper, salt, and honey together.
Coat the radicchio quarters in the mixture. When the oil is good and hot, place the quarters on their side in the oil with some room in between. You may have to do more than one batch. Cook on each side until slightly charred. The goal is to have the edges charred, the outer part a bit wilted, and the interior al dente.As soon as the first edge is charred, turn and repeat on all sides.
Remove to a plate and spoon the remainder of the marinade over all of the wedges. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice (if it’s still too bitter for you, add more lemon–it brightens things up and mellows the bitter).
Sprinkle with the cheese and chopped celery or parsley leaves. Top with bacon, cut into slices (or porchetta on the side).
Dig in! Make sure to get a bite of bacon or porchetta with each bite!