Endives are a very French vegetable. I didn’t eat them often, at least not knowingly, when I lived in the United States. But they seem to be a staple winter vegetable in most people’s diets, both for the variety of ways they can be served and their price; you can often find a bag of six for less than â‚¬1. People certainly don’t eat them at first for their taste, which like many good things in life (spinach, strong coffee, red wine) needs to be acquired, they’re rather bitter raw or cooked.
Often times I steam them, then refrigerate overnight and serve cold with a tangy sauce for a simple salad. Or there’s always the preschooler’s soup I’ve already talked about.
This recipe might not be the most child friendly recipe, but it’s certainly very French. My kids will eat the ham and rice soaked sauce and pick at the endives which is all I really ask. After all, I have heard that it takes up to twenty exposures to a new and suspicious food for a child to like it- we’re only at about exposure number eight. it’s best to cook the endives in advance, otherwise you have to wait a long time for them to be cool enough to handle. Then again, you have to wait for the rice to cook. This is not a meal to make on a night you get home late, not unless you’ve prepped it all in advance!
Endive Ham Gratin (Gratin just being a fancy work for a baked casserole)
- 1 endive per person
- 1 slice of good ham per person
- bouillon cubes (vegetable flavor is my favorite)
- 1 cup heavy liquid cream
- 2 tablespoons good mustard
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
At some point long before dinner time, it can even be the day before, cook the whole endives (don’t trim the ends) in boiling water seasoned with the bouillon cube for at least half an hour or until done. Then drain well, standing on their end, and put aside to cool.
When you are ready to put the dish together, start by cooking a pot of rice, about half the quantity you would normally prepare for the number of people you are serving. Then put the cooked rice into a buttered or oiled baking dish. Wrap each endive in a slice of ham, and place it on top of the rice, with the open ends of the ham down. Mix the last four ingredients together, and pour over the endives and rice. Make more sauce if there’s not enough. Bake in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes, or until the ham is crispy and the endives are hot. Serve to acclaim.