Anything tastes good smothered in ham and cheese, but the lively, bitter flavor of the endives shines through the rich meat and dairy. The recipe below was adapted from this version.
Serves 4, cooking time about 1 hour and 20 minutes
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 8 large yellow Belgian endive, trimmed
- 8 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
- Bring 2 and 1/2 quarts of water, the butter, sugar, and salt to boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to simmer, then add the endive, cover, and cook until very tender, about 45 minutes. A knife should be able to pierce through with no resistance.
- Remove the endives from the pot, reserving 1 and 1/4 cups cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, squeeze each endive to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Wrap each endive with one or two slices of ham. Arrange them in a shallow baking dish that holds them snugly; a 9 x 9 glass baking dish would be ideal.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture smells nutty, about 2 minutes.
- Continue whisking and add the milk, then the reserved endive cooking liquid in a slow, steady stream. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking. Continue whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg and pepper.
- Pour the béchamel over the endive, covering them evenly. Sprinkle the shredded Gruyère cheese evenly over the top. Set the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Place the dish under the broiler for a minute or two after baking to get a bubbly, browned top. Serve hot.
Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking; it’s essential to many classic dishes. The technique may seem finicky but it’s an important process, and after one or two attempts, making béchamel will seem like second nature.
Aside from the expense of a good Gruyère, this dish is relatively cheap to make. With the cost of cheese this endive showcase comes to around $4.25 per serving.