Endive is a member of the chicory family. The tender tops are known as endive in the US. The flavorful root is the chicory you find as a substitute for some coffee.
Belgian endive is also called ‘witloof’ in Dutch and ‘chicon’ in Belgian French. And as the names are multifaceted, so are the uses and flavor.
Even this recipe is very versatile. You can omit the cheese and simply enjoy the fresh flavor of braised endive. It is absolutely divine!
Belgian endive has an ivory-white head with yellow-edged tightly wrapped leaves giving them substance and body. They have a mild bitter flavor and a tender succulent texture, making them perfect for au Gratin.
This simple rustic dish makes a great appetizer or side to complement a soup or favored sandwich. However, it also makes a great light meal during the week.
The Gruyère cheese can be substituted with Fontina or Swiss. And, of course, other herbs like tarragon or cilantro can be used instead of nutmeg.
- 4 heads white or red Belgian endive (4 to 5 oz. each)
- 1 TBLS butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 TBLS butter
- 1 TBLS flour
- ¾ cup whole milk
- Dash salt
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (1/8 teaspoon ground)
- ½ cup to 3/4 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated (to taste)
- Pepper, to taste (optional)
- Parsley or chives finely chopped, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
- Clean endives. Trim the stem ends and remove withered outer leaves
- Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter or oil, heat until butter is foaming. Stir in endives. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper (to tastes). Cover lid and lower heat. Cook for about 30 minutes. During cooking time, turn each endive over once or twice. Keep warm until ready to assemble.
- While the endives are braising, prepare béchamel sauce.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter until foaming. Add flour. Whisk until smooth, cook for about 1 minute. Stir in milk, whisk well. Let simmer for a few minutes, whisk continuously. Add salt and pinch of nutmeg. Keep warm until ready to use.
- When endives are finished braising, drain off extra liquid, (reserve the liquid for the béchamel sauce).
- Add the reserved liquid to the sauce.
- Arrange endive in a single layer in a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the top.
- Top the braised endives with béchamel. Sprinkle with grated Gruyere.
- Bake, uncovered for 10-20 minutes or until bubbling and cheese has browned on the top.
- Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Garnish with finely chopped parsley or chives.
- For a main entrée, you can wrap the endive in vegetarian deli "ham" before baking. It makes a heartier and delightful dish.
Ceramic Dishes & More
If you are expecting guests, for a fancier meal serve the Belgian Endive au Gratin in nice ceramic dishes. On the side, have a nice green salad and some fresh bread, your friends will be amazed.
Braised endive: Sofreímos las Endivias hasta Dorarlas Ligeramente via photopin (license)
Close-up of Belgian Endive au Gratin: Belgian endives via photopin (license)
Fresh endive leaves: Almeirão via photopin (license)
Endives: France-23 via photopin (license)
Belgian Endive au Gratin in brown bowl: アンディブのグラタン シメイ風味 / Chimay cup 2009 menu @Frigo via photopin (license)
Different types of endive: endive at Naschmarkt via photopin (license)
Monkey eating endive: The orangutan baby with an endive via photopin (license)