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Sorting Out Chicories

Fine Cooking Issue 53
Photos: Scott Phillips
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If you plan on trying our recipe for Quick Chicken Sauté with Walnuts & Orange Pan Sauce, you’ll need a head of curly endive, a member of the chicory family of greens. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish curly endive from other leafy chicories at the market because they’re so similar looking and not always consistently labeled. So here’s a primer to help you hone in on the right one.

Curly endive (a.k.a.chicory or curly chicory) has narrow stems and frilly, very curly leaves. It can be eaten raw in salads, but cooking mellows its assertively bitter flavor. Look for heads with deepgreen outer leaves and a white to pale-yellow heart. The stem end shouldn’t show signs of browning, nor should the outer leaves look wilted or have black tips.

Curly endive.

Frisée is essentially baby curly endive. Its tender leaves are finer and its flavor is milder than its more mature cousin. It’s a favorite of French cooks for salads, especially when paired with a warm bacon vinaigrette. When buying, look for the same quality indicators as for curly endive. The pale center leaves are the best part, so choose a head with lots of them.


Escarole (a.k.a common chicory, broad chicory, or Batavian endive) has wide, succulent stems and leaves that look more crumpled than curly. It also has a bitter flavor, though somewhat less so than curly endive. It’s eaten both raw and cooked. Avoid escarole with especially thick or tough looking outer leaves.



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