Saturday, February 16, 2013

A French Country Weekend & A Recipe

Perfect Belgian endives.

          As promised, here is the recipe I've used for more than 20 years to make my endives au jambon. It is beyond easy, almost everyone loves the dish and it feels rather cozy when the temperatures plunge. Furthermore, it's a one-dish meal. Usually, as I mentioned last weekend, I start the dinner with a salad and we do love betterave and mâche with a simple vinaigrette.

       As with most French recipes with which I am familiar, they start out in a basic way and then the cook at home (or the chef in a restaurant) fine-tunes to make it his or her own.

      Since I've learned to live like the French, I try to mostly stay with the vegetables and fruits of the season. One is always rewarded for doing so. Last week, for example, I bought the most exquisite looking strawberries "grown in Spain" and after one bite I realized, once again, why we shouldn't buy strawberries in February. They were expensive, dry and tasteless.

      As I was saying . . . the seasons. . . endive is a winter vegetable and we love them in salads, steamed, braised in sweet butter, in a word they are a staple in our vegetable line-up. They are also very reasonably priced, which I'm told they are not in the United States.

     The recipe for six:

12 medium endives (two per person, which is plenty -- you'll see): leaves should be tightly closed, trim the bottoms, toss any withered leaves.

Rinse gently and quickly under cool running water, drain (shake).

You can see how golden and delicious these endives appear, that's why some cooks opt for  endives braisées for their endives au jambon.
Now here come two choices for cooking the endives:

Braised (above):  melt 6 Tbs. of sweet butter in a heavy pan with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and approximately 1/4 cup of water.

Melt half of the butter in the pan, arrange the endives in two layers, with butter between the layers and on top of the top, squeeze the lemon juice on each layer, sprinkle with salt and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes, covered. Uncover the pan and let the endive cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the pan and let drain and cool slightly.

Steamed: This is the way I usually cook my endives. Place endives in pan, spritz with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt, cover with approximately 1/4 cup water, let them boil for 10 minutes covered and 10 more minutes uncovered.


You see the advantage of this method -- fewer calories. Some might say it's a crime like this though. . .

The ham:

When the endives can be easily handled, wrap them in paper thin slices of ham. (Remove every bit of fat from the slices and all the better if you have a butcher who will cut the slices for you.) Depending upon the size of the slices, you can use either an entire slice or half of one. The idea is to entirely wrap the endives.

Place the endives au jambon in a single layer in a buttered baking dish.

Now comes the best part. . .
Sauce Béchamel (so easy, it takes five minutes, max, and can be used in so many interesting ways):

For approximately two cups:

2 Tbs. sweet butter
3 Tbs. flour

Melt the better on low heat in a heavy sauce pan. Slowly blend in the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a couple of minutes you will have a perfectly combined white roux.

2 cups of hot milk and a pinch of salt.

Remove roux from the stove, when the roux stops bubbling (mine never really bubbles), quickly pour in all of the hot milk and start whisking it like a mad person to create a lump-less sauce.

When the roux and milk are blended, while constantly whisking, bring to a gentle boil for approximately one minute.

Final step:
Fromage rapé.
Pour your sauce béchamel over the endive now resting in a baking dish -- some cooks dot the top with butter -- and place in a preheated 375 oven for approximately 35 minutes. Test for done-ness with a paring knife. Sometimes, depending upon the thickness of the endives, you need a few more minutes in the oven.

Five minutes before the end, generously sprinkle with grated Emmanthal or Gruyère cheese. You can slip the endives under the broiler for a brown and crusty look, but I never do and mine come out sort of tan which is fine with me and less bother.

Nuances on the theme:

Endives au jambon, ready to go to the table.
Instead of milk in the béchamel you can use heavy cream and/or heavy cream and crème fraîche. You can imagine h0w divine and calorific this recipe is. Just once it's worth the splurge.

Steam or braise (as mentioned above) -- your call.

The béchamel can also be made with skim milk, but I've never done this. A friend of mine does. It's fine, but lacks a certain richness. The grated cheese helps though.

Et voila. I don't think I've forgotten anything. After you've made this a couple of times you'll see how quickly it can be prepared. It can also be prepared in advance and is delicious reheated.

Normally, from start to finish preparation takes between 20 to 30 minutes.


Young at Heart said...

oooh I do love this..... must say i so love braised endive with roast chicken too......delicious!!

Joni said...

Mmmm! I defnitely want to make this.

mette said...

Even I might try this - but without the ham!

Lost in Provence said...

Can you believe that I have never made my own bechamel let alone this classic dish?

Ooh, I am so hanging my head in shame.

Bon Weekend!

See you later at Ze Voice!

Déjà Pseu said...

Oh YUM. Will definitely try this at home.

Barbara Lilian said...

My French son in law showed me how to make this. Which I often make as a quick & easy meal. In England we make the dish using leeks, which I must say I prefer.

Blue Shed Thinking said...

I did a more rustic version of this midweek, lining two small roasting tins with smoked streaky bacon and put em in the oven to pre-cook, then placed vertically halved chicons in and covered them with sauce and granted cheese. Served with sourdough bread to mop up the sauce and make bacon sarnies.

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

if it involves cheese, it must be good! :) Would you believe I have never cooked endive, only using it for appetizers but this dish I can't wait to try. Am heading to the market later today and will pick up the ingredients. Can't wait! and thank you for sharing.

BigLittleWolf said...

I loathed endives the first few times I tried them. (Bitter!) Then had them prepared wonderfully (in Belgium) in a vinaigrette, and also, grillées....

Fabuleux !

I might have to try this...

webb said...

Definitely going totry. Did not know that one could COOK endives! Does it matter what kind of ham? Am thinking a cured ham would be good, but would it overwhelm the flavor of the endive? Thanks.

Deborah Flanagan said...

Thanks for this recipe, Tish. I appreciate your photos and comments. I can't wait to try it.

Ann Knickerbocker said...

This is perfect! The French work wonders with endive! It is also splendid raw, with crumbled roquefort and walnuts and oils, at Chardenoux in Paris.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Fabulous dish Tish and a beautiful presentation too. It's a shame American's don't appreciate endive as much as the French. They don't know what they are missing :)

Maureen said...

Love being able to buy big bags of endives in France for a couple of euros rather in the expensive one at a time we do here in the UK.

I do tend to remove the bitter inner core (only way husband will eat them) before steaming.

I shall make this with leeks as Barbara Lilian says, much easier to get here.

Worthington said...

J'aime endives! I cannot wait to try endives au jambon - merci, merci for this recipe

SE said...

I've been watching for this recipe ever since you first posted about the dinner you were having. Can't wait to try it because it covers my most important cooking requirements- easy and delicious.

knitpurl said...

Thanks Tish for taking time to post this. Agree with all that it sounds delicious. Haven't looked at endive in my favorite market for years. So have no idea if I will substitute leeks because of price or quality. I'm not a ham fan either, but the gruyere, yum, I can taste it already. xo,C.

Duchesse said...

I steam them, then roll them in the drippings from the chicken I'm roasting- easy and delicious.

phlegmfatale said...

This dish looks marvelous, and I will definitely try it! Endive is such a nice, cool-weather crop. Did you know they grow in 28 days? That's the kind of fast food one can readily support!

Joan said...

A little grated nutmeg in the bechamel is lovely...

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