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Radicchio Caesar Salad

from Diane Morgan's The Christmas Table
Radicchio Caesar Salad

3 heads radicchio (about 1 1/2 pounds total weight), cored

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 very fresh large egg yolk
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 cups (3/4-inch) fresh bread cubes, cut from an artisanal white loaf with the crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground pepper

Serves 8

This and many other wonderful
recipes may be found
in Diane Morgan's The Christmas Table
from Chronicle Books


I told dear friend and colleague Cathy Whims, co-owner of Portland's renowned Nostrana restaurant, that I was "borrowing her recipe" after I ate this salad there. What could be a more seasonal and colorful addition to Christmastime menus than a salad made with red-leaved, white-ribbed radicchio. Yes, radicchio has a slightly bitter flavor, but this dressing is creamy and rich and balances the salad greens perfectly. With the addition of crunchy herbed croutons and a showering of freshly grated ParmigianoReggiano, this salad is a welcome addition to a holiday meal. I especially like to serve it after a main course of prime rib or beef tenderloin, as it balances the richness of the meat, yet refreshes the palate before dessert.

Separate the leaves from the radicchio heads, tear them into large bite-size pieces, and soak in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour, so they become crisp. Drain and dry in a salad spinner. Spread the radicchio on a large cotton dish towel (not terry cloth) or on several sheets of paper towel. Roll up like a jelly roll and place in a large plastic bag. Refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be done up to 2 days in advance.)

To make the dressing, in a blender, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, egg yolk, anchovy paste, garlic, sugar, and pepper and process until emulsified. Alternatively, whisk together the ingredients in a medium bowl until emulsified. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to use. (The dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance.)

To make the croutons, position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the rosemary and sage and sauté until the herbs are fragrant and lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Pour the butter mixture over the croutons and toss to coat. Set aside until ready to use. (The croutons can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.)

When ready to serve, place the radicchio in a large salad bowl. Give the dressing a last minute shake and pour over the salad. Toss gently until the leaves are well coated. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and add the croutons and a few grinds of pepper. Toss gently to combine and serve immediately.

Cook's note
If you prefer not to use a raw egg yolk in the dressing, replace it with 1 additional tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Raw eggs in any form should not be served to young children, the elderly, pregnant women, or anyone with a compromised immune system.

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