Known as witloof in Flemish, which literally means white leaf in English, Belgian endive is a small head of ivory-colored, bittered leaves that are cultivated from chicory root. The technique for cultivating endives was discovered by accident in the 1850s in Belgium. An interesting story my husband shared, it happened when a farmer hid his chicory crops in his barnyard from tax collectors – by burying them under the ground! After several days, the farmer discovered these blanched leaves sprouting out from the soil.
I came to notice these salad leaves for the first time whenever my husband would prepare our salad. “It’s too bitter for my taste,” I admitted. Obviously, I didn’t like it, but the Belgians do. When I spent some time in Flanders, I started noticing how often the endives are being served. For some time though, it did disappear in our vegetable stack at the kitchen; good thing that my hubby hadn’t complained! Yet I see more and more endives in the supermarket now, I got tempted and finally, I decided to give it another chance. My hubby was convincing enough too, after telling me that I can rather prepare it in a certain way that would make it less bitter. I did what I had been told, and it’s true then – it was remarkably good!
When endives are steamed, grilled or braised, the endive’s sharp flavor mellows down and its texture’s juicier. So far I’ve paired cooked endives with roasted pork loin and pork adobo and it all went very well. Besides that endives dish can be so delicious, it’s also very simple to make. My most favorite so far now that I like preparing is Belgian endive au gratin.
- 8 heads Belgian endive, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or amount
- to taste
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 8 slices deli-style ham
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Lightly grease a baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Place the endives into the water. Cover, and cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Place the butter into a saucepan, and melt over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and stir until the mixture becomes paste-like and golden brown.
- Gradually whisk the milk into the flour mixture, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until well blended. Cook gently over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Preheat an oven broiler to low.
- Drain the endives. Wrap each endive with a slice of ham, and place into the prepared baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the endives. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Gruyere cheese and parsley.
- Cook the endives under preheated broiler until cheese is golden brown and sauce bubbles, about 10 minutes.
A few tips I suggest, first off, you can skip making the flour cheese mixture. I’d just normally top it with grated cheese. You can also use bacon instead of ham. I like bacon more.
Recipe captured from allrecipes.com.
Then next, I made this Belgian endives soup and we both liked it very much.
So it’s official – the Belgian endives are back in my kitchen! And I made one Belgian in the house really happy. I also hope I can share more endives recipes anytime soon, too.
Cream of Belgian Endive Soup
2 Belgian endive, cored
1 white onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (or skim milk or cream)
salt and pepper
chopped chives (to garnish)
dill sprigs (to garnish)
- Mince the endives, reserving a few small leaves for garnish.
- Saute the onion, garlic, and endives in the butter for 3 minutes.
Add the potatoes and chicken broth and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
- Blend until smooth, using an immersion blender, or carefully transferring hot soup to blender and then back to pot.
- Add the milk, salt, and pepper and blend. Serve hot or cold.
- Garnish with chopped endive leaves, chives, and dill.
Recipe from food.com.