May 22, 2006

Endives au Jambon

Endives are beautiful little entities; so delicate, so pure. They're fabulous looking and they sound quite swanky as vegetables go, especially in French. If you can find petite ones, they are especially pretty. However, other than seeing Ina Garten dollop lobster salad on individual leaves, I didn't know of too many uses for endive.

Last year, I was happy to discover a few more ways to use these beauties. Normally referred to as Belgian endive, they are subtle yet slightly bitter in flavor but are equally good raw or cooked. The separate leaves make great chip substitutes for dips. Sliced in salads, they pair well with strong flavors like blue cheese and are often combined with spicy lettuces like radicchio. Braised endives (seen above) make a great side dish and that method of cooking helps dissipate any bitterness in the endives. Braising is also the first step in this rustic dish found on many café menus, Endives au Jambon. Braised whole endives are wrapped with a slice of ham, covered with béchamel sauce and placed under the broiler. These made a delicious dinner last night!

Endives au Jambon

2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
6 whole endives
6 slices good quality ham

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grated gruyere, divided

Braise the endives:
Wash off endives and dry well. Trim 1/4 inch off the bottom stem. (*Note you would normally braise them whole, but I was in a hurry and cut them in half. They cooked much faster, but fell apart a bit. It's up to you.) Melt butter in a wide skillet over medium low heat. Lay endives in one layer in the skillet. Sprinkle salt, pepper and sugar over the endive. Cover and let cook 30-40 minutes for whole endives (maybe up to an hour depending on the size!) and about 15-20 minutes for halved endives. A knife stuck easily into the core should tell you they're done. Remove from skillet.

Make the béchamel:
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour until a paste forms. Cook for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk and turn up the heat while whisking vigorously. Bring to a boil and let thicken. Season with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. Whisk in 1/4 cup of grated gruyere until melted and smooth. Set aside.

awaiting the béchamel...

Assemble the gratin:
Take one whole endive, or 2 halves, and roll up in one slice of ham. Place in a buttered 8x8 baking dish. Repeat with each endive. Pour the béchamel evenly over each and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Bake in a preheated 425-450 degree F/220 degree C oven for 10-15 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned on top.


Ivonne said...

I love endives and what a wonderful idea to have them with ham in a gratin. Well done!

Alanna said...

Hi Megan -- I'm so glad you loved the tuscan bean salad. THANK YOU for taking the time to say so and completely MAKING MY DAY! You seem to have lots interesting cooking here, too!