Radicchio Makes A Superior Holiday Salad

I am an unapologetic champion of serving a salad with holiday dinners. Even though I am completely here for the casseroles, a pile of raw leaves can cleanse the palate and invigorate, allowing one to continue shoving potatoes and gravy into one’s face with gusto. Any salad can fill this role, but a radicchio salad excels in it.

There are three main reasons radicchio belongs in your holiday spread: aesthetics, flavour, and ease. In a sea of beige that is (sometimes) punctuated with pops of green, a vibrant bowl of purple is a welcome sight. Radicchio’s flavour is also a much-needed departure from the norm. Bitter isn’t a taste associated with holidays, but believe me, serving a side that breaks up all of the umami-packed, fat-forward offerings is a clutch move. The bitterness resets your taste buds, which lets you eat more, which is the whole goal. Radicchio is also a dead-easy leaf to prep. Just tear it with your hands, or have a (clean) child do so.

Even though this is a salad, it’s still a holiday salad, and little toasty bits of brown butter bread crumbs, along with a maple apple cider vinaigrette, keep it from feeling completely disjointed. Both the crumbs and the dressing can be prepped the day before, then stored in the fridge. (Take them out about an hour before serving so they can come to room temperature.) It’s simple but effective and—more importantly—delicious. To make this vibrant mound of roughage, you will need:

For the brown butter crumbs:

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter

  • 1 cup bread crumbs (either store-bought or homemade)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons powdered parmesan

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 2 small sage leaves, finely minced

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the salad:

  • 1 small head of radicchio

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to foam, then reduce the heat to low. Let the butter cook, stirring if one side of the pan seems to be browning faster than the other, until the butter is a deep, golden brown. Add the crumbs, stir to coat, and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the crumbs start to faintly sizzle, cook for another minute, then get them out of the pan and into a bowl (or any container, really). Crumbs can be stored in the fridge for about a week. To make the dressing, combine the remaining ingredients in a sealable jar and shake until emulsified. Dressing can be kept in the fridge for about a week.

If you’ve made the dressing and crumbs ahead of time, take them out about an hour before dinner, and give the dressing a good shake to make sure everything gets evenly redistributed. Wash and dry the radicchio and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Drizzle on the dressing, sprinkle on the crumbs, and serve with extra of each on the side.

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