Endive Gratin

endive-gratinI can’t say it enough, I love cooking during this season. During last week’s dramatic cool-down, I had a craving for some good old French onion soup. We went for French on date night and I got some. Made me very happy. It also got my creative juices flowing to make something French, and what’s a good fall French dish? Pretty much anything ending in gratin or gratiné. The endives looked nice at the grocery store so that’s what was getting gratin’d this week.  

Now, you probably know endive from endive salad or some sort of hors d’oeuvres where a piece of endive is stuffed with ham or something. Regardless, raw endive is bitter. Not as bitter as radicchio but still bitter. However, if you cook it the bitterness goes away and you end up with a sweet and somewhat tangy dish. It really is quite the transformation. And delicious.

Even though I knew I wanted to top it with some cheese and bread crumbs, I still needed a good base recipe. Who else to turn to for a classic French preparation but Julia Child. As far as her recipes go this one was fairly straightforward. Not too much technique and most of the cooking time is in the oven.

I used about half of the amount of endives she called for and I cut mine in half lengthwise. While it worked out fine I can see why she left them whole and stacked in two layers. Endive really cooks down in the oven. My one layer of split endive came out looking rather…flat. Not as bad as a pot full of spinach cooking down to a spoonful but yes, significant shrinkage. Easily fixed though, that’s what the cheese and bread crumbs are for. Layer it on and people won’t even notice. Next time, definitely 2 layers.

Despite cooking down so much the endive came out tasting great. Tender and sweet with a nice crisp topping, no bitterness whatsoever. Would be just fine without the cheese topping but why mess with a good thing? I added just a little bit of vegetable stock before putting the cheese on since the pan had dried out, and the stock added a little sauce to it. It’s a great fall dish to serve alongside a roast chicken with some green vegetables. Such a wonderful comfort dish.

Endive Gratin serves 6 (adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

  • 10 endives, medium size, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • Butter
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/8 C water
  • 1/8 C white wine
  • Parchment paper
  • ½ C gruyere cheese, shredded
  • ½ C panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs parsley, minced

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Take a piece of parchment paper and trim it to fit your pan/casserole dish. Set aside.

Smear 1 Tbs of butter in a span/enamel casserole big enough to hold the endives. One which you can use on the stove and put in the oven.

Place the endive halves in the pan, cut side up, in two layers if needed.

Sprinkle with the salt and sugar.

Add the water, wine, and lemon juice. Cut up 1-2 more Tbs of butter and dot the top of the endive with the small cubes.

Cover with a top or foil and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes.

Remove foil and turn heat up, to a rapid boil, cook until liquid reduces by half.

Rub butter on one side of the cut parchment paper.

Lay it on top of the endives, butter side down. Cover tightly and place in oven.

Bake for 45 minutes. Take out of oven and remove cover and parchment paper. Spread the parsley, cheese, and bread crumbs on top. Put back in oven uncovered until top turns a nice golden brown. About 10-15 minutes. You can broil it if you’re impatient!

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