October 18, 2005
Braised endives

Braised endives.jpgI first came across braised endives in an awful job many years ago. I was nominally hired as au pair in a very snobby nouveau riche family in the 16th. Being pretentious gits, they had a cook/housekeeper. Being cheap, they hired an illegal immigrant from Mauritius and treated her very, very badly. And they shouldn't have done, because she was a treasure: cheerful, hard-working, and a fantastic cook. (Of course I would never argue they should treat her badly if she were depressed, lazy and a bad cook, but it was augmenting the crime.) I will always regret that I left that job (in a hurry, I might add) without getting her recipe for samosas. They were wonderful.

And so were the braised endives. I wandered in the kitchen one afternoon, drawn by the savoury smell of chicken and an indefinable vegetable. I saw them bubbling merrily in a milky sauce. And I asked, "What on earth is that?" She looked at me as though I had suddenly dropped down from the Planet of the Terminally Clueless and said "Why, braised endives, of course!"

That night, I stopped at the épicerie on my way home and bought a kilo of them. I remember they were wrapped in a piece of paper that, very helpfully, had recipes for cooking them. It's as though my guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder, directing the fates in my direction: it included one for braised endives.

I can't give credit for the following recipe as I have no idea what Belgian Endive Food Board had the bright idea of putting recipes on the paper that was used to wrap the darlings. But I am grateful. That was some 12 years ago and I'm still making them the same way. I haven't even tried to improve them as I think they are perfect as they are. This is coming from a girl who thinks that cooked celery is an abomination to man. And endives aren't that far from celery in texture.

Braised endives

Look at the photo at the beginning of this post. Don't they look comforting and tasty? They are. This is the only comfort food I know that is relatively low-calorie and really good for you. Okay, there is chicken soup. But still, it's pretty rare.

3-4 Belgian endives (enough to fill your frying pan snugly when sliced in half lengthwise)
3-4 Tbs butter
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbs (roughly) lemon juice
1 scant tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Put the butter in a nice heavy bottomed frying pan and heat until it is frothing. Slice the endives in half lengthwise and add them to the pan, keeping the heat relatively high so that the butter browns (but does not burn!) and the edges of the endive caramelize. After a few minutes, when you really think you are in danger of burning the butter and/or the endives, turn down the heat to low and pour in the chicken broth. (If you are Barrett, you can use vegetable broth.) Sprinkle the sugar and lemon juice over the endives and cover loosely. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. (Obviously it depends on the size/thickness of your endives.) Salt and pepper to taste.

It's that simple. I make this pretty frequently when the Critic is away at an Official Function. I also sometimes make up a batch solely to bring in to work for lunch. It's my secret indulgence. The sauce goes milky and is full of chicken flavour and salt and a touch of sugar. The endives, even when tender, retain a bit of bite and are steeped in the wonderful broth. It's a fantastic combination.

Weight Watchers note: if you braise these in a non-stick pan and limit the butter to two teaspoons per serving (I find two endives are usually a good serving) and keep the sugar at 1/2 a tsp per serving this is only 2.5 points per serving. You can increase the broth to 250ml and serve it in a bowl for a satisfying, filling and low-point lunch!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at October 18, 2005 1:47 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

But Meg, can I use vegetable broth?

I like endive a lot. I had a braised endive dish many years ago that I've never been able to recreate. It's especially good as a contrast to beets or butter lettuce or some other sweet vegetable.

Posted by barrett on October 18, 2005 at 2:38 PM

For some reason, the lemon juice and sugar combination is essential. It doesn't come out sweet-and-sour like a Chinese dish, just a little edgy and yet with a sweet savoury base. I tried omitting the sugar once because I don't like adding refined sugar to anything but desserts but it wasn't at all the same.

You win an award for fastest comment on a post - I was still going back and correcting the mistakes when your comment was posted!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 18, 2005 at 2:40 PM

I know Barrett is a vegetarian, but no chicken either?
Dang Meg, that does sound wonderful and easy enough that I could do it on a week night. Thank you! Would rendered bacon bits be nice as a garnish?


Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 18, 2005 at 4:27 PM

Bacon bits are, without a doubt, a great addition to any dish that is not ice cream. (And even then, maybe, if you get the flavor right...?) But I'm not sure. I forgot to mention that a common cafeteria use of braised endives is to wrap them in ham and cover them with a bechamel sauce and bake them until browned on top and bubbling below. It's nice, but I like them simple. Less work, less mess and just as much flavour.

But if you wanted to add a meat element, it's what I would do!

Still bacon bits are awfully tasty...mmm...bacon bits...gahrrgghh...

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 18, 2005 at 5:20 PM

Yeah, keep it simple. Just serve with a Ham Steak if you want that.
Can vegetarians eat ham? Or is that off the list too?

Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 18, 2005 at 5:23 PM

Chicken and ham are definitely NOT on the list for this vegetarian.

Pretty much anything that ***** in the woods, or could, is right out. Fish don't fall into that category.

Hey, you got to have criteria, right?

Posted by barrett on October 18, 2005 at 5:26 PM

Ha! You're funny. This is one of the major reasons I don't like fish, much. They poop in my water supply. (No, I refuse to quote Mr. Fields).
In any case, I went and bought endives today on the way home from work !!! I may be able to pull it off, tonight.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 18, 2005 at 6:51 PM

I just like my woodlands nice and tidy... :)

Posted by barrett on October 18, 2005 at 6:56 PM

I think I'm pulling it off, I've got Meg's endive recipe on the stove, braising nicely. Which is kinda tough because I'm cooking two dinners already and taking photographs of each.
It's all worth it.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 18, 2005 at 7:16 PM

Wow, Dr. Biggles, it was so exciting to check the blog this morning and see that you are already trying it! Let me know now it turns out! (Unless you decide that the recipe is awful and the person who published it should be punished...!)

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 18, 2005 at 11:58 PM

hey meg -- i love braised endive! before i learned it in cooking school, i thought of endive only as salad fodder but these are a hit for whoever I happen to cook them. funny how a little bit of sugar makes all the difference. am still hoping we can make that bunny stew one of these days. it was the best i've ever had.

Posted by laura @ cucina testa rossa on October 19, 2005 at 3:49 AM

YEAH ! I pretty much did it and the entry is up. What a nice way to close a day.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on October 19, 2005 at 11:19 AM

Hey Meg,
There's nothing like eating comfort food in the fall. I'm going to give the braised endive a try tonight. They look delicious. Thanks!

Posted by Tracy on October 19, 2005 at 1:12 PM

I agree with Meg that this simple version of endives probably succeeds best in bringing across the subtle taste of Belgian endives. On the other hand, although it's one of the two most popular versions of making endives in Belgium (the other one being the "wrapped in ham and covered with bechamel until bubbly in the oven"-version). The ham version is more popular because it is more pleasing to the taste of the kids. During the winter months (the endive season in Belgium), we'd get this dish atleast every two weeks on our plates, when I was a kid. And I still love it !

Posted by Nico on October 19, 2005 at 10:30 PM

I make this exactly the same way but without the chicken broth...essential to my version is to put the lid on tightly after sprinkling the sugar and lemon juice over the endives and turning the heat down very low. Without the additional liquid of the broth, you can serve these endives as a side dish with roast chicken or whatever. Wonderful!

Posted by Luisa on October 26, 2005 at 1:05 PM

Gonna try your recipe for Christmas Eve with my nice Carard. Thanks for it.

Posted by Eugene on December 24, 2005 at 10:20 AM

I used to make tarte tatin with braised endives and goat cheese, you should try this, it's delicious!

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