Radicchio is one of those ingredients that’s great to have in your entertaining repertoire. It’s beautiful on the plate, it’s got a great balance of bitter and sweet that complements many fall ingredients, and it’s more special than the standard workaday lettuce that people keep in their crisper drawers. It also happens to make an unusual yet stunning stand-in for iceberg in this twist on the classic wedge salad. As good as radicchio is raw, I opted to sear the radicchio wedges in a hot pan to char the outer leaves but leave the insides crisp. From there, I draped the wedge with buttermilk-crème fraîche dressing and garnished with pancetta, pears, blue cheese, and herbs. It’s a low-effort, high-reward side dish -- the very best kind when it comes to entertaining. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
EmilyC had me at "charred." And again at "radicchio." And again with every ingredient listed. Who knew they'd all complement each other so well, not only in taste but color too! At a dinner party where presentation might matter more than at a typical meal, this dish will certainly impress even before guests savor the crispy, creamy goodness that melts in your mouth. —gabsimonelouise
For the buttermilk-crème fraîche dressing:
finely diced shallots
lemon juice, plus more to taste
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
For the wedge salad:
pancetta, finely diced
large head of radicchio (10 to 12 ounces)
Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with lemon juice, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Add more buttermilk (a teaspoon at a time) if the dressing is too thick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made 2 to 3 days in advance.
To prep the radicchio: Remove any wilted or bruised outer leaves, then cut the radicchio in half lengthwise through the core. Place the halves cut-side down, then cut each half into two wedges, leaving the root end intact.
In large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for one minute. Add pancetta, and sauté until it is crispy and the fat has rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon, leaving about 2 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
Increase heat to medium-high. Place four wedges, cut-side down, into pan, and cook until the outer leaves start to char, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then repeat with other cut side, about 3 minutes cooking time total. You want the outer leaves to get dark brown in spots but the inside to stay crisp. Avoid overcooking the radicchio or it will wilt and become too soft.
For serving, place one wedge on each plate, and top with buttermilk-crème fraîche dressing and scatter with pancetta. Around the wedge, scatter more pancetta, pear, blue cheese, chives, and mint. This dish would also be pretty served family-style on a long platter. Serve additional dressing on the side if desired. I like serving the radicchio wedges while they're still warm, but they're good at room temperature too.