Thanksgiving’s indulgent dishes — stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, and cranberry — might feel like well-earned rewards after this crazy year. But all the rich and sweet sides weighing down the table call out for the freshness and simplicity of a salad. Escarole with its ever so slightly bitter flavor brings just the right balance.
If you ask me, escarole is the ideal winter green. It’s tender enough for salad and robust enough to sauté with olive oil and toss with pasta. Go for the pale, tender inner leaves and save the outer one for adding to turkey soup. Or maybe for that midnight everything sandwich.
If you lean towards bitter — are you one of the dark chocolate people? Do you go for IPA and espresso? — then you can amp it up by adding radicchio to the greens. They’re beautiful in this mix. But maybe you’re more moderate. If so, you can temper the escarole’s bite with tender Boston lettuce. If you’re undecided (seriously?), I suppose you could add a bit of both.
The anchovy in the dressing is discretionary. But I recommend sneaking just this one, minced fine, into the dressing. If you’re a fan, you already know this, but doubters, really, I promise it will add depth without being overbearing.
Don’t just peel the orange. If you cut away the skin and white pith, their jewel-like colors will show. Tossed with the greens and crunchy pecans they make for a stunner of a salad that you will return to all season long.
Escarole and Orange Salad
For the dressing
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
½ shallot, minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 anchovy (optional)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
1 medium head escarole
½ head small radicchio or Boston lettuce, or a mix
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves
2 blood or navel oranges
1/3 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
If you can toast your pecans ahead of time, good for you. If not, do them before you put the salad together — they only take a few minutes. Place pecans on a rimmed sheet in an oven heated to 375 F. Shake and stir after 5 minutes; it may take about 10 minutes for them to be aromatic and a shade darker. Remove, cool, chop roughly.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and shallots together in medium bowl.
Add ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. If using the anchovy, finely mince and then smush into a paste with the flat side of a knife, then whisk it into the vinegar mixture.
While whisking constantly, gradually add the olive oil to make a smooth dressing. (The dressing can be made up to 6 hours ahead.)
Tear the lettuces and mint into bite-size pieces, wash and spin dry.
Cut the skin and white pith from the oranges. Halve them from top to bottom, then thinly slice into half moons.
Toss the greens in a large salad bowl with the nuts and about half the dressing. Then add the orange slices and the remaining dressing, and season with salt and more pepper. Toss lightly and serve.