I am kicking myself. I forgot all about endives. How could I let this happen?
I blame winter.
Now that spring is upon us, the fog is clearing. I now realize I was in a food rut. I keep stumbling across foods about which I nearly forgot. Each time this happens, I marvel at the holes in my mind and the many moons I let pass without eating good meals. Again, I kick myself. I love kiwi fruit. How could I forget? Lamb shank? Bring it on, please.
And, of course, we must not forget the endives. This week, my mother foisted an intimidating pile of newspaper circulars into my arms. I didn’t quite know what to do with them. I never look at newspaper ads. I don’t have a subscription of my own nor does it ever occur to me to think about shopping for sales. It’s not that I don’t get a thrill out of a bargain. I do. I really really do. I just didn’t inherit the coupon and sale trait from my mother. I don’t have the patience for such things. I also cannot stand the feeling of newspaper ink on my hands, but that’s just a secondary excuse. Either way, there it was on the very top of the stack of ads on the very first page.
Done. I didn’t look any further. I sent off a quick text to K hoping to catch him before he left the store. I asked for 8 endives and that is precisely what he brought home. He is a wonderful man. Good fortune struck again when I realized I had all the ingredients in my kitchen for a gratin. This was a small miracle given the kitchen is a mere shell of an ordinary kitchen as I am still on the road. And, finally, the little red fox took a decent nap allowing me time to pull it all together for a hot lunch. Hot lunches, I find, are such a treat. It never fails to make me feel special to eat one. And, if I’m the one who whips up a hot lunch, I feel stupendous as if I have superpowers. In any case, the stars were certainly aligned.
This was a meal to remember. It’s one I’ll make again here very shortly while endives are abundant at the markets. It’s truly delicious. The first bite was a heavenly mix of rich cream with a touch of nutmeg followed immediately by the faintly bitter taste of the endive. It’s an interesting mix. Somehow, the endive gratin manages to be both hearty and delicate at the same time. It’s a bit of spring and a bit of winter. Maybe it’s the perfect food as we tiptoe into this new season? A soft landing of sorts?
Also, if you traveled in France and had a chance to feast on a gratin there, you will find yourself instantly transported. Isn’t that the best feeling of all? A good meal will do that. A hot one too.
I hope you’ll try the endive gratin. Pair it with a fresh green salad and a crusty loaf a good bread, but don’t wait until endives go on sale. That would be silly. Although it’s worth the wait, it hardly seems fair to deny yourself the pleasure of a hot lunch like this one. Plus, it’s quite possibly you’ll forget about this recipe tomorrow. You don’t want to kick yourself.
1 14 and 1/2-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
8 small heads of Belgian endive (or 4 large heads, each sliced into 2 pieces for a total of 8 )
8 thin round ham slices (each about 5 inches in diameter)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 and 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Large pinch of ground nutmeg
1/3 cup (packed) grated Swiss cheese
Bring broth to simmer in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add endive and simmer uncovered until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Place on paper towels and cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 11×7-inch glass baking dish. Roll each endive in ham slice to enclose. Arrange rolls in prepared dish. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute. Add milk, cream, mustard, and nutmeg and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Boil sauce 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over rolls. Sprinkle Swiss cheese evenly over. Bake until sauce is bubbling all over, about 30 minutes. Heat under broiler for about 1 minute to brown the cheese on top.
Adapted from Bon Appetit