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A Side Dish that Steals the Show

Apr 12, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose

I discovered this recipe, by Jane Black, in the January 9, 2008 food section of the Washington Post which I read religiously every week and sometimes write for as well. One of my favorite columns is the occasional series “Staff Favorites” in which staff writers share favorite recipes. (As the Post says: “….that we turn to time and time again.” Though I’m a chronic clipper of appealing sounding recipes, they usually end up in the “to file” pile for someday. This one I made the week I clipped it and surely will be making it time and time again myself!

If ever there were a vegetable accompaniment that upstages the main course this is it: Endive Gratin: creamy, nutty-sweet with a gilding of Gruyère cream sauce, the endive within slightly crunchy and slightly and deliciously bitter to offset the richness of the sauce.The French have a wonderful term for this quality aigre-doux which refers mostly to sour/sweet but it is this contrasting yin yang flavors that lifts up a dish and makes it compellingly pleasing.
I served it with steak but I will also serve it with lamb and even with fish. Since there were just two of us I divided the recipe by 3 and, for a change, made no changes what-so-ever.

I’ve been given permission to reprint the recipe as it appeared in the Washington Post and on their website. Don’t wait--make it this week! And if you’d like to read the delightful story that accompanied it, go to the website: www.washingtonpost.com

An Indulgence Worth the Weight
This French side dish is typically rich but always a crowd pleaser: an elegant, less-starchy complement to roasted meat. It can be made 1 day in advance; reheat, covered with aluminum foil, in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

• 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
• 6 medium endives, cut in half lengthwise, stem ends trimmed but left on
• 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
• Juice of 1 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used fine sea salt)
• 1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-inch oval gratin dish with the butter.
Place the endive halves cut side down in a large saute pan. Add the broth, lemon juice and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes, until the endives are fairly tender but not cooked through. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the endive halves to drain in a colander. Pat dry with paper towels, then nestle half of the endive halves in a "V" pattern in the gratin dish. Sprinkle with half of the Gruyère cheese. Use the remaining drained endive halves to form a second layer atop the cheese. Pour the cream over the top and sprinkle with the nutmeg and black pepper to taste. Distribute the remaining cheese evenly over the top and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the cream has almost evaporated. Serve hot.

Recipe Source:
From Food staff writer Jane Black.

Note: My friend Zach Townsend transforms this into a main course by wrapping each poached endive with a slice of jambon!

Comments

David, thanks for that link -- very informative!

REPLY

David, thank you for sharing the Washington Post article. I am in TOTAL agreement!

REPLY

David Chessler
David Chessler
05/ 4/2008 09:08 PM

The washington post food page is often good.

This week they had an article about a woman who called "chefs on call" to get Mark Furstenburg to teach her how to bake bread.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/29/AR2008042900497.html

There are recipes for rye and white bread that are not unusual: he starts with a poolish (sponge), but he puts quarters of an onion in the rye poolish.

What is unusual is that instead of steaming (it's apparently hard to do in a Wolff), he pre-heats an iron dutch oven and then uses that to bake, starting with the dutch oven covered.

Elsewhere on this site you will find details of how I steam: I have a teapot with a rubber cork in the spout directing the steam through copper tube into the oven. When I put in the bread, I pour water in a pre-heated 15" (37 cm) cast iron frying pan with a couple of firebricks in it. I pour in boiling water until it reaches the top of the bricks (about 1 1/2 inches: 3.5 cm). This provides an initial rush of steam that seems to last about 5 min. At 10 min I turn off the heat under the teapot.

I put the fryingpan in the very top position in the stove, with the bread on tiles in the very lowest position. Works for me, but some people may have to move the tiles up one position.

When I bake cakes, etc, I put the third oven rack in a middle position. I find that if the oven is well preheated, it then doesn't lose much heat when the door is opened because the tiles, cast iron pan, and firebricks are an enormouse heat-sink that give up their heat when the stove is open.

REPLY

Right answer.

Wow, I never knew you could caramelize Romaine, but just yesterday I did 5 lbs of sweet local onions on my giant 13 quart Le Creuset round dutch oven. I freeze them in ice cube trays and keep for any recipe calling for onions, caramelized or not!

By the way, this 13 quart giant has a very "perfect-defective" lid . The lid is supposed to fit flush and tight. When the Le Creuset words align with the pot handles, the fit is tight, but 90 degrees rotated it leaves a gap just big enough to release vapor without having to crack the lid ajar. I love this "feature."

REPLY

Hector - just like pasta, I suppose the chinese invented Lettuce Gratin first :).

Btw, I love to caramelize Romaine on the grill or griddle... just cut in half lengthwise and brown... yum!

REPLY

This tiny cabbage reminds me of how my Chinese mother handled lettuce. She would use plain common crisp lettuce. Leaves carefully separated and rinsed, then carefully layered/packed in each other about 5 thick and cooked on a shallow layer of broth.

Stuffed with some meat was also one of my mother's favorite, and I bet she would have used cheese if she would have discovered cheese! Many older generation Chinese do not know what cheese is. In fact, the most fancy cooked lettuce preparation she enjoyed was to add a top layer of bechamella.

Now, you tell me who invented Lettuce Gratin first: the French or the Chinese?

You will be surprised how wonderful cooked lettuce is...

REPLY

Hello, when I grew up in France "endives au jambon" were common as a main course. It's a similar recipe, with the cooked endives individually wrapped in slices of ham and covered in a cheesy bechamel sauce and then baked until the top is golden brown. It's good comfort food.

REPLY

Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/12/2008 03:07 PM

One of my favorite all time vegetables. I can't get enough of them when in France, and they are never more enjoyable than when prepared at someone's home rather than out. The photograph is mouthwatering.

In northern France, they are affectionately called "La Perle du Nord" - the pearl of the north.

Thanks for posting such a great recipe.

Zach

REPLY

Endive, butter, cream, and Gruyère ... sounds utterly amazing!

REPLY

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