Panic not, dear reader, you have not gone to the wrong blog by mistake… I cooked something new for lunch today and thought it would be nice to share the recipe.
Endive, or chicory as it is better known in Britain, tends to get a bit of a bad press. We think of it as bitter and unpleasant. Aubergines used to have a similar reputation. But, both vegetables have benefited from the art of the growing expert and are now much more palatable. You can ignore those recipes that tell you to salt your sliced aubergines to leach out the bitterness: totally unnecessary!
Back to endive. I’ve seen it in the shops and markets quite a bit here but have never usd it before. So, I thought it was about time I gave it a go! I did a bit of recipe browsing on the internet for ideas and, as is my usual practice, came up with an idea of my own that drew on various inspirations. Early this morning it was off to the local marché to buy some fresh French endives, amongst other things. So, then, the recipe…
Ingredients (for 2)
4 to 6 endive heads
Waxy/salad potatoes (quantity to taste)
Smoked bacon lardons
Sugar (brown if you have it)
Few sprigs of thyme
Cheese sauce (300 to 500ml)
Grated cheese (eg Comté)
Small amount of crusty bread
- Cut the potatoes into 1cm to 2cm irregular pieces, dry the pieces in kitchen towel and fry in olive oil in a frying pan. Put the oven on to around 180 degrees centigrade.
- When the potatoes are beginning to brown, add the lardons. Continue until the potatoes are nicely browned and the lardons are starting to crisp up. Transfer the mix (but not the oil and bacon fat) into an oven dish (I used a Pyrex one) and put into the oven.
- Remove any nasty leaves from the endive heads and cut in half lengthways. Put into the frying pan (with the oil and bacon fat) cut-side down. Add a knob of butter and 4-6 teaspoons of sugar (to help the endive caramelise).
- When the flat side of the endive is nicely caramelised and brown, turn over. Remove the leaves from the thyme stalks, chop the leaves finely and sprinkle into the pan. Turn occasionally as needed.
- While the endive is cooking, make some cheese sauce. I really like cheese sauce, so you’d probably use a bit less than me! My preferred method is to use a mix of cornflour, water and Dijon mustard (brings out the cheese flavour) to thicken hot milk, then add grated Parmesan and Comté cheeses (roughly 50/50), with half a dozen grinds of black pepper (no salt). The sauce needs to be quite thick.
- When the endive is nearly cooked, tear some nice crusty bread into small pieces (a handful, say) and add to the pan. Stir to allow the bread to soak up the fat and juices and begin to fry.
- Switch the oven to “grill” setting and turn the heat up to max.
- Transfer the mix from the frying pan into the oven dish, mix. Add a few grinds of black pepper (but no salt, because of the bacon and cheese). Here’s what mine looked like (the endive was browner than it looks in the photo, really!):
- Pour over the cheese sauce, covering all the mix. scatter the grated cheese over the top and put the dish back into the oven.
- When the gratin is nicely browned and bubbling, serve!
Endive is still a bit of a personal taste. I really enjoyed this, Joanna wasn’t so enthusiastic!