30 October 2011

'Round and 'round

Life here in Saint-Aignan is cycles and seasons. The seasons are long enough that you are almost surprised when they change and a new one settles over you. Being an amateur gardener and an amateur cook reinforces the seasonal changes. You have to notice the seasons and the weather when you have things growing in the garden — or not — and something fresh and seasonal cooking in your kitchen, in a pot or in the oven — nearly always.

So it's wintery-feeling now, and dark. It's not too cold — yet — and tant mieux for that. But it's time for winter eating. The garden is mostly cleaned up and will lie fallow for months — growing anything much will have to wait until at least next March. Most importantly, it's time to cook winter foods. Vegetables: endives, cabbage, cauliflower, and so on, with a rich chicken broth or a thick cheese sauce. It's time for winter cheeses, the kind you melt and eat hot: Gruyère, Comté, Cantal, Beaufort, and Cheddar.

Cook the endives, wrap them, and make the gratin up to this
point. Put it in the fridge until you're ready to bake it.

So here it comes around again. A few days ago, it was time for Gratin d'endives au jambon. And today it'll be cabbage with sausages, carrots, and boiled potatoes, in chicken broth with wine. But first the endives, or Belgian endive as they are called in the U.S. I understand they are very expensive over there. Here in France (and Belgium too, I'm sure), fresh crispy endives are inexpensive. They can qualify as an everyday food of the season — cooked, or raw in salads.

I've been cooking them into a gratin with ham once or twice a year for 25 years now, and I never get tired of them. Making them for the first time each autumn is almost a ritual. Cook the endives in a pan with butter, white wine, garlic, and either vinegar or lemon juice. Wrap the cooked endives in slices of ham. Make some sauce béchamel with cheese — that's called sauce mornay — and cook the ham-wrapped endives in it, with some grated cheese on top. Eat and enjoy. Feel warm.

The autumn 2011 version of Gratin d'endives au jambon.

I've posted recipes and pictures at least a couple of times before. Here are the links:

An effective treatment for the winter blahs

This blog has officially entered into its seventh year of existence. I don't know when I started posting every day, but that happened sometime along the way. I'm really aware of repeating myself right now. Maybe it's my age. There isn't much new under the sun. The seasons, they go 'round and 'round.


  1. I too concern myself with repeating things, but readers come and go and most people's memory's aren't so great.

  2. Andrew, I'm sure you are right. Thanks.

  3. I can never tire reading your blogs every day first thing in the morning. Maybe you repeat yourself, but who doesn't and who cares as long as one enjoy reading what you have to say that day.

  4. I used to read our local news in the paper every morning, but somewhere along the way (maybe 3 or 4 years ago) your local news was what I needed to hear first.

    Your news is less repetitive and more calming than any newspaper. I like the fact that you cook with the seasons and now we are having endives again;-)

  5. I am sure I will appreciate this endive story same next year as much as I did today. That's what makes seasons nice that make your blog nice. So keep up posting without ever worrying of repeating yourself, I enjoy it everyday anyway!

  6. I agree with Evelyn. Your blog is like a good news network where I read things that make me interested and happy. I don't notice repetition. After all, I am never bored when the seasons repeat themselves. They're never really the same, nor is your blog.

  7. Repetition is good. Seasonal pleasures are satisfying. You have an interesting life that you share with us on the blog; it makes enjoyable reading every day. It's never predictable.

  8. Inspired by your occasional mentions of this great-sounding dish, I provided a slightly changed version of it (with ham and asparagus) for a cookbook that our school was putting out :) I credited you and your blog for the original recipe!

    p.s. I see that Air France is on strike... my sister and her husband are finishing up a trip to Italy, and their Air France flight from Milan to CDG (to catch the flight home) has been cancelled. Geeze.

  9. Well I will go along with what le cher Cousin said. You may repeat yourself but sometimes the second version or third version reminds me where I may have gone wrong following a recipe.
    Enjoy the fall colours - here it is beautiful and now some trees dropped all their leaves in one shot yesterday morning ( went down to 1C the previous night) and I have to clean the yard . Fortunately , no white stuff yet for us in Montréal and the mid-Atlantic states took a beating including power outages.

  10. Great recipes. I love endive.

  11. Your post reminds me that I hardly ever take the time t thank you for your wonderful blog, even though I have read it the first or second thing every morning for years. I wish I had not taken it so for granted. Warmest thanks to you, Ken, for the work and love that you put into writing.

    Dennis Martin

  12. Being only a reader of your blog for just about a year now, there haven't been any repetitions. Just as Andrew said!
    Yes, I agree with your other readers that your writing style is always positive and informing. Seasonal and spirited - I enjoy it immensely. Friends of mine cannot believe how I look forward to both Walt and your blogs as they make me feel so much closer to my memories of past trips to France and all things french. Thanks, Ken.

    Mary in Oregon

  13. À CHM, Evelyn, Jan, Kristi, Carolyn, Judy, Beaver, Mary, Starman :


    Dennis, nice to read you again. Hope you are still enjoying trips to the Dordogne.


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