Utica Greens, named after that central New York city, are the traditional accompaniment to Chicken Riggies. They are also nice with grilled steak or chicken, or maybe as a topping on an eggplant parm sandwich. Note that my version is quite a bit lighter than what you may have had in an upstate restaurant, where they often pride themselves on packing in the prosciut’, peppers, cheese and oil. This just has a nice balance. Serves 4.
1 medium-to-large head of escarole, 1 pound or more
1/4 c chicken stock
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 c onion, thinly sliced
1 pickled cherry pepper, seeded and chopped*
1/4 c vinegar peppers or bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 prosciutto or pancetta, chopped
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/3 c bread crumbs
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, grated
Method: thoroughly wash the escarole, removing any brown ends or leaves, and chop into 1-inch strips. Place in a covered saucepan with the chicken stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and sweat 5 minutes until the greens have reduced by half. (At this point you can refrigerate the greens and bring them out when it’s time to cook and serve.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic and onion and bell peppers if you’re using them. Sauté until tender. Add prosciutto or pancetta and cook till it crisps a bit; add cherry peppers and vinegar peppers. Add spices and reserved escarole and its liquid (if there’s a lot you can drain some off) along with a little cheese and a little parmesan. Mix well and transfer to a 8-inch baking pan or a small cast iron skillet. Cover the top with an equal mix of bread crumbs and cheese (you might want to just mix them up in a bowl). Bake until cheese melts and the liquid is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
*Do try to find Italian style pickled cherry peppers. But if you fail, sprinkle in some flakes of crushed red pepper and increase the vinegar peppers/bell peppers a bit.