Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Taste of Radicchio

I've made this chicken dish three times now, and finally decided I ought to write about it. The fennel-mustard butter along with the capers and anchovies is delicious. But, it's all about the radicchio. The bitterness can be off-putting and after making the dish once, I thought I probably wouldn't prepare it again, but I found myself craving it  bitter radicchio and all.

I've been asked about radicchio: Is it a type of cabbage, or what? I looked it up, and although it looks a lot like red cabbage, it's actually in the chicory family. Most of us have heard of chicory root, which is baked, ground, and sometimes added to coffee. Radicchio, however, is a leaf chicory also know as Italian chicory.

It's supposed to mellow when cooked, but I have to say, the flavor is still pretty peppery and bitter (not kid-friendly). I keep it on the side, so my kids can have plain chicken. Also, I've learned not all heads of radicchio are alike. I'm not sure if it's just a coincidence, but the very small oval-shaped radicchio I got the first time was very bitter indeed. The next time, I got a large round head and it was not nearly as intense, but then, it was way more than I needed for the recipe.

On the side, I was trying to come up with something gluten-free other than rice or potatoes and thought I'd give polenta a try for a change. And who knew? the creamy taste and texture was just right with the pungent, salty, peppery, bitter flavors of this dish. I'm still looking for the right vegetable side. I guess, technically, radicchio is a vegetable, but I feel like I need to have something green on the plate too. As in the photo, I've served it with baby broccoli, but it wasn't quite right. Maybe next time I'll try green beans.

I found the recipe on epicurious.com one of my favorite recipe sources. It was originally published in 2004 in Bon Apétit: Chicken Breasts with Fennel-Mustard Butter & Radicchio. It's a flavorful and interesting dish. I hope you'll give it a chance and like it as much as I.