Deborah of Old Shoes - New Trip fame had the honor of choosing this week's ingredient, and it was lettuce. Here is what she said when she posted her recipe:
I'm cheating here. On February 8th, I have to report on "Smothered Boston Lettuce with Pancetta" for our Essentials blog challenge.
On Feb. 8th, I'll still be recovering from SlowBowl.
So, I decided to make this my Sunday Slow Sides selection and let it do double-duty.
So shoot me.
The recipe is on page 507 of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you have the book, that's great. If you don't, I recommend you add it to your collection. Best Italian cookbook on the market. Anyway, for those of you who don't have it, I think Marcella will forgive me for posting the recipe here.
I was really excited about preparing a recipe from Marcella Hazan's book, "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". I have been following the cooks on Pomodori e Vino, who are cooking thru Marcella's entire book, ala Julie & Julia.
There was some discussion among our Sunday cooks of substituting another ingredient for the Boston lettuce shown in the recipe. Spinach was mentioned, as was either Napa or Savoy cabbage. I decided to make two versions so I could compare.
My first effort was with spinach instead of the Boston lettuce. Bill loves cooked spinach, so this dish was popular with him.
Second try - Napa cabbage. I had heard that Napa cabbage carmelized well, and boy was that right! It turned out really, really well - my favorite, without a doubt!
PS - For you Trader Joe's junkies, they sell a package of pancetta that is already diced up. For lazy people like me, that is a real plus!
Smothered Boston Lettuce with Pancetta
1 1/2 pounds Boston Lettuce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion chopped fine
1/3 cup pancetta chopped fine
Salt to taste
1. Detache all the leaves from the lettuce heads, saving the hearts to use raw in a salad. Soak the leaves in a basin filled with cold water. Scoop up the lettuce, empty out the water together with any soil, refill the basin with fresh cold water, and put the leaves back n to soak. Repeat the operation several times until you find no more soil settling to the bottom of the basin.
2. When you have drained the leaves for the last time, shake off all the water, either using a salad spinner or gathering them in a cloth towel and snapping it sharply 3 or 4 times.
3. Tear or cut each leaf into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on its size, and set them aside.
4. Put the oil, onion, and pancetta in a saute pan, turn the heat on to medium, and cook the onion, stirring from time to time until it becomes colored a deep gold.
5. Put in as many of the lettuce pieces as will not overfill the pan. If the lettuce doesn't all fit at first, you can add the rest when the first batch has cooked briefly and diminished in bulk. Add salt, cover the pan, and cook until the central rib of the leaves just reaches tenderness, about 30 to 40 minutes. Turn the lettuce over from time to time as it cooks. When it is done, if the juices in the pan are watery, remove the cover, raise the heat to high and boil them away quickly. Serve promptly. Do not reheat or refrigerate.