There’s sometimes a bit of confusion over endives and chicory. In this case I’m referring to the pale yellow and and white torpedoes that are the blanched buds of the Common or Belgian Chicory, not to the curly, frisée-style salad leaf.
You can braise the chicory in the old-fashioned full-fat way, in melted butter and lemon juice, or you can blanch or steam them before draining thoroughly on a clean tea towel.
Either way you then wrap each chicon in a slice of ham and bake them in a cheesy béchamel sauce scattered with a handful of breadcrumbs – pure heaven on a cold winter’s night.
That’s it really – but here’s the full recipe if you’d like it …
Chicory and Ham Gratin
4 small endives
Cheesy béchamel sauce (see below)
4 thin slices of cooked ham
40g dry breadcrumbs (panko are good)
For the sauce:
Up to 350 ml milk (you may need a little less)
40 g butter
35 g plain flour
120-150g good-quality hard cheese (at various times I’ve used combinations of Gruyere, Cheddar, Parmesan and proper farmhouse Gouda) depending on how cheesy you want it
1/2 tspn made English mustard
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5.
Trim the roots end of the chicory and remove any damaged outer leaves.
Either braise in butter and lemon juice, blanch in boiling salted water or steam until softened but not soggy. You should be able to pierce the thick part with the point of a knife but there should still be some resistance.
If blanched or steamed, drain very thoroughly on a clean tea towel.
Meanwhile make the cheese sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook gently for a minute or two. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick and glossy. Add a little salt and pepper. Continue to cook gently until any floury taste has disappeared, stirring often. Mix in the grated cheese (saving a handful for the topping) and cook until melted and velvety. Whisk in the mustard. Check and adjust the seasoning.
Wrap each chicon in a slice of ham, lay them side by side in a buttered gratin dish, and pour over the cheese sauce.
Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated cheese.
Crank the temperature up to 450F/230C/Gas Mark 8 and return the gratin to the oven for another 6-8 minutes or until golden and bubbling. We had it with roasted tomatoes, baked with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper until charred at the edges.
This for me is the epitome of cheesy comfort food so I’m entering it for the January Cheese, Please! Challenge run by fellow blogger Fromage Homage – check out the site, it’s funny, informative and chock full of cheesy goodness.