16 January 2010

Endives: treats of the season

Belgian endives are a wintertime staple over here. Have they become any more widely available, and reasonably priced, in the U.S. these days? Do people eat them in England?

Maybe its that bitterness thing. There's something about the anglophone palate that doesn't enjoy such foods. They have to be cooked right. Is it because we have lost sight of the seasons when it comes to cooking?

Belgian endives braised in butter and lemon juice, with garlic

Winter grinds on. Good food is the only consolation. Fondue savoyarde, tartiflette, endives au gratin — stick-to-your-ribs stuff. And Walt and I were talking about it yesterday: it won't be long before asparagus season arrives. And then strawberries. And then fruit from all the trees in the neighborhood. It's all something to look forward to.

Wrap each cooked endive in a slice of ham,
or chicken or turkey breast.

For now, everybody is hunkered down. Two of our neighbors just decamped to the Paris area, where they keep an apartment. They'll be back when the weather breaks. The other neighbors — the ones whose winter residence is in Blois — hardly come down here at all this time of year. And the neighbors who are here seem only rarely to stick their noses outdoors.

Cook the wrapped endives in the oven in a cheese sauce.
Don't forget to put some nutmeg in the sauce.

Life feels very routine right now. And because there are seasonal patterns, it's hard to find anything of interest to blog about that hasn't already been blogged. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Les jours se suivent et se ressemblent. All that. Cabin fever has set in. But there's plenty of good food to eat.

I've posted before about cooking Belgian endives, here and here.


  1. Ken, I'm with you on the stick to the ribs food for the season. Here the wind is blowing a gale and the rain is coming down sideways, but we've got red beans and rice cooking.

  2. Endives are available in the supermarkets but I have never bought any or, to the best of my knowledge, eaten any. But I'm always willing to try anything so I might just ask his nibs to get us some and see what happens. He's doing all the shopping as well as the cooking at present.

  3. You asked if people in England ate them Ken; well I buy them occasionally and add them cut up with other leaves to make a green salad mixture. When olive oil and balsamic vinegar has been added it helps to mask any bitterness though we don't mind a little of that. But I do love what you've done and am going to try it.

  4. Your endives look delicious. I've only had them a couple of times, one of which was when I was at my boyfriend's for dinner. They were in a salad and they were bitter. I had a hard time cutting them and didn't think of using a knife.

    We may have them here around holiday times. Does the braising make the bitter taste go away? I don't mind sour tasting stuff, but bitter--nope.

  5. i see them in most grocery stores here in va but i doubt most people even know what they r....i braise them in a bit of chix stock & put some panko breadcrumbs on top with a drizzle of olive oil

  6. I love endives! I've been craving them for the past month or so and haven't found them, not even at Whole Foods or my favorite Italian gourmet market.

    I like them best just braised in a little chicken stock. Or as a salad with good blue cheese. There's something about the combo of those two flavors!

  7. Ken, are you reading anything good? Watching any good TV shows? Do you get seed catalogs there so you can dream about this year's garden?

  8. I love cooked endives; I buy them at Trader Joe's and put them in salad mostly. They generally come in a pack of 4; 2 with yellow greenish tips and 2 with red tips. They are delicious either way and I actually love bitterness in vegetables, as in "bitter melons" (asian squash), rapini (broccoli rabe), belgian endives, sorrel. Have you ever made sorrel soup? It is a very french soup and it is delicious.

  9. I was brought up to call them chicory (and what the French call chicori we call endives, but there you are). You see them on sale, but I don't think they're on the top of anyone's list of favourite vegetables. Our rib-stickers tend to be a bit stodgier: I've just done a suet-crust roly-poly with the scraps from a gammon joint (=mix plain flour and shredded suet, in proportions 2:1, with some baking powder and water, roll out thin, lay on the filling, sweet or savoury, roll it up and seal the ends with water, wrap in greased foil or a cloth, and steam forever).

  10. Endives are called "witlof" (white leaves)in Belgium and they are part of our national cuisine. Ken, you have the recipe down flat and have avoided the lazy cook trap of boiling the witlof instead of braising them. A good trick to give them a subtle taste, tone down the bitterness and caramelize them further is to add a small pinch of sugar 5 minutes before the end of braising time :-)

  11. I think this was an interesting blog post.

    I haven't seen endives here in the states recently, but yes, they are rather pricey when they are here. I enjoy them in salad, uncooked, and don't mind the bitterness with a bit of sea salt.

  12. I don't really know of anyone here who cooks or eats endive, even though they're always there in the produce section. I think I've mentioned before that they were (raw) part of the beet salad that my au pair family used to make (with chopped apples, cubes of cheese, and mâche).

    I recently made that asparagus-ham-hollandaise sauce dish that you guys inspired last time Walt or you blogged about the endive-ham-cheese sauce dish. I don't bother rolling, I just steam the asparagus, lightly pan brown the ham, put them on a nice piece of toast, and pour hollandaise over them. It's really good :)

    p.s. I really enjoyed the mésange post the other day :))


  13. p.p.s We had freezing fog yesterday :)

  14. Endives are available but they are still very pricey. One almost never sees them on a menu. I've never understood why they aren't more popular. Even with the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the farmers' markets, they are not there.

  15. I've never eaten endives as a main course, so I don't know if I would like them that way. I have used them often in salads.
    BTW, thanks again for the advice on cooking pork chops. They came out juicy and tender, just like you promised.

  16. We do have endive, we call them witlof here. I have only eaten them raw in a salad and I didn't like them at all, but your way looks delicious. We are into all things salad here. The mangoes, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots are plentiful and cheap and delicious.
    Hunker down and think of Spring. It's on it's way. I look forward to Autumn.

  17. Today, I just used your recipe to braise endives and make a gratin for Paula who never had them before. I'm glad to say she likes endives raw or braised. This was a great success, thanks to you. She sends her best to both of you.

  18. Bonjour CHM, et bonjour à Paula. J'espère qu'il fait beau là-bas.


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