A Side Dish that Steals the Show

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!