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How to endive

Formal education is useful, I guess, and so is a good upbringing, but all I really need to know I learned in France. Let others write odes to kindergarten; I owe it all—or a lot of it, at least—to Paris, plain and simple. It was there that I had my first taste of love, sweet, delicious, and doomed. It was there that I learned how to live with a family of strangers and, later, how to live alone. It was there that I learned how to love a city, its cement, its splendors, and its subway. And it was in France, dear reader, that I learned to swallow the bitter pill best known as endive—not a life lesson, perhaps, in the strict sense of the term, but a promising turn for a palate.

As a child, I was more picky than pleasant at the dinner table. Though there were few foods that I would wholly refuse, endive was one of them, along with bananas, mushrooms, and asparagus. My father, on the other hand, loved the stuff, and as fate would have it, he also loved grocery shopping. At least one out of every three trips to the store—which worked out to be quite a lot, in our house—would bring an attack of the small white torpedoes, cold and foreboding, sheathed in hard, squeaky leaves. He’d slip them into salads, where they’d lie in wait, caustic, amidst soft, ruffly lettuce leaves. Ever the inventor, he’d fashion from them bitter, bone-white spoons for scooping up salads of shrimp, peppers, and pesto. I learned from an early age to stealthily avoid endive, but it seemed to follow me—first over land, and then overseas.

So it was that at a modest table in southwestern Paris, I was cornered, conquered, and, at the tender age of twenty-one, taught to love endive. Maybe it was a simple matter of maturation, of taste buds and passing time, but there, confronted with an empty plate, a full bowl of salad, and the eyes of an entire host family, I was forced to reconsider. I scooped a spoonful of endive and apple onto my plate, the thin slices pleasantly indistinguishable under a nubbly coat of coarse-grain mustard vinaigrette. It was cold, crunchy, sweet, tart, and tangy, a small wintery welcome. It wasn’t love, but it was likable enough for a second helping. Repetition, it seems, works as well at the dinner table as it does in the classroom, because by the time a caramelized endive and goat cheese tart landed on my plate sometime the following spring, I was set to automatic swoon. Soft and burnished, the endive was mild and sweet, and propped against a cushion of pillowy cheese, it went down without a hitch.

I learned my lesson well, because it still does. I throw endive into salads alongside apples, pears, and pungent blue cheese. I sneak it into a bastardized Balthazar salad, where it folds itself happily alongside fennel, frisée, and radicchio. And it should come as no surprise that I often give it a good braise, my default treatment for misunderstood vegetables and other misanthropes.

With a good, steamy bath, endive melts into a soft, silky tangle. Its bitterness settles into a subtle complexity, an earthy sophistication smoothed by the velvet hand of heavy cream and a salty slap of prosciutto.

Braised into submission, it shares the plate quite nicely with roasted chicken or pork loin, but I’ll take my endive on its own, as a light but rich winter supper, with bread for sopping up the creamy pan juices and a simple green salad to start. There is no bitter pill that can’t be made better by braising—which is, if you ask me, all I really need to know anyway.

Braised Endive with Prosciutto
Adapted from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens

The original version of this recipe calls for browning the endive in butter, which helps to tame its bitterness, but with a feeble nod to my arteries, I have instead substituted olive oil for two-thirds of the butter. Happily, the end result does not seem to have suffered, and so far, neither have my arteries. For best results, choose endive with sleek, tight leaves and no bruises or discolorations, and opt for smaller specimens over large ones.

1 ½ pounds Belgian endive
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs unsalted butter
3 thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
½ cup good-quality chicken broth or stock
¼ cup heavy cream
Coarse salt, such as Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the endive, dry them lightly, and remove their outermost leaves. If the root end is brown or looks dried out, trim it lightly. Cut each endive in half lengthwise.

Warm the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add as many endive as will fit in a loose layer, cut side down, and cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the endive, and cook them for a minute or two on the other side; them remove them to a large (9” by 13”) baking dish, arranging them cut side up. Add the butter to the skillet. When it has melted and is no longer foaming, add the remaining endive, and brown them as instructed above and place them in the baking dish. The endive should fit in a single layer in the dish.

There should still be a thin sheen of butter in the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the prosciutto to the skillet, and turn them gently but quickly to slick them with butter. Tuck the strips between, around, and on top of the endive in the baking dish.

Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the skillet to loosen any flavorful bits; then pour the hot broth over the endive and prosciutto in the baking dish.

Cover the dish snugly with foil, slide it into the oven, and braise the endive until they are very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and baste the endive by spooning over any juices in the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 Tbs of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the pan juices have turned a caramel color and have almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream, and bake until it takes on a caramel color, about 6 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature, with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 3 to 6 servings, depending on what else is on the plate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay I must relent - I so rarely have any time to post a reply let alone read a blog (I'm a busy mom and I love to eat and cook, but I do only read two blogs about cooking and yours is one) but as my kids swirl around me as I try to type and ignore them for a minute, here I go. Thank you for writing so eloquently about your love of food, of succumbing to endive or the rain in Seattle, etc...I feel the same joy reading your posts as anything by MFK Fisher or even in a strange way,the thrill of reading Joan Didion. You're a gem and I plan on making some of these recipes too. I do!

7:07 PM, January 19, 2006  
Anonymous lindy said...

This looks delicious. I am crazy for endive, and have braised it many ways, but not like this. I must save up for some, and try it. (Last time I bought a bit for some salads, I had major sticker shock.)

9:08 PM, January 19, 2006  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

I love your description of endive (small, white torpedoes). I'm so glad that you've learned to like them.

And thanks again for pointing out what a great book "All About Braising" is!

(I love your blog!)

11:11 PM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger ilva said...

Now you have meade me crave endives, must go shopping! ciao!

11:42 PM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger amylou said...

Count me among the endive (n-dive, on-deeve?) lovers, Molly.

I have a cookbook I think you might like. In it, there's a recipe for braised (!) endive with leeks and white beans on smooky mashed potatoes. Really good.

12:02 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Michèle said...

Molly, my endive love was slow in the making too but strangely it started at a Belgian brasserie in Toronto a few years ago and I've been hooked ever since. Alhough I have never braised it, I usually only sautee it for a ridiculous amount of time in butter until it is soft and browned and yummy.. But adding crispy pork of any kind to endive is an idea that I cant resist. I will definitely give this recipe a try.

12:41 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Staximo said...

I love endive!
And I love your blog!

2:51 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

How do you do it? Each post is better than the last!

7:07 AM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Oh dear. I'm beginning to think that Stevens' book belongs on my bookshelf. I don't want to have to do it. But I might succumb. Especially if I read about one more incredible recipe of hers. But really especially if described in such lovely terms as you did. Salty slap of prosciutto? :) Perfect.

8:42 AM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous GooberNGrape said...

what an interesting bit of synchronicity writing about endive.
the monthly salad at the SF restaurant where i work (and that you often mention in your posts and recipes) has changed to a frisee and endive salad with Gruyere and it has inspired me.
before this, i've eaten endive as an anemic appetizer with a blop of bad cream cheese in it, or-- the other end of the spectrum-- as a tasty bite dipped in bagna cauda, but that's about it. thanks to the menu at work now, i've added endive to my salad bowl.
if i find small heads, i can pluck the leaves whole and toss them with other greens and the vinaigrette. or again using them whole, toss them with cut segments or cut cross-sections of blood oranges (which are everywhere now, fortunately) or mandarins, pungent cheese, chopped herbs, and what remains of my good olive oil a friend brought back from Tuscany. pretty simple stuff, but really delicious. the endive's sweet, gentle bitterness is a nice foil against the oranges and the cheese especially.

and all of your writing about braising has finally turned on my curiosity.
in winter, i'm a big fan of roasting vegetables-- crisp, caramelly edges of anything are tasty. but your posts have sparked an interest in trying it and then comparing it to what i like about roasting. so if i have my choice later at the market, i'll make my maiden voyage into unknown braising territory with the endive as opposed to celery, fennel, or cabbage. one thing i discovered that i love about endive is its size and scale. it's easy to work with only a few small heads and not have too many leftovers to deal with, it's like automatic portion control. halve the recipe, pack the endive into smaller casseroles, (possibly lower the oven temp) and bingo, it's perfect for one or two. thanks for lauding endive's praises, i'm with you on this one.

9:53 AM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous Tania said...

Braising, eh? I've only ever eaten endives raw -- as a crudité or in a delicate salad. Now I know another way to try them ... mmm ... with prosciutto and cream, to boot!

9:59 AM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any suggestions for a vegetarian alternative to the prosciutto? I have to join all of your other readers and commend you on your wonderful blog!

12:53 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Katy said...

That is funny about how you learnt to love them in Paris. I had never had an endive until I was living in France. My host parents served them as waterlogged, squashy squeaky little piles before we would move onto our main meal of meat. I suppose it turned me off of them so much I never dared to order them in any of the restaurants I went to. I probably ought to give them another go. Thanks for the push!

1:51 PM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous GooberNGrape said...

a vegetarian alternative to prosciutto could be Parmesan cheese cut with a vegetable peeler-- wide ribbons. if added before braising, i have a feeling the cheese would disintegrate during the cooking process. so, i'm finishing the dish with some cheese slivers on top during the last minutes in the oven or just a few seconds under the broiler after it's all done.

1:58 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

Once again, beautiful, my dear. Like you, I've fallen in love with braising this winter. Swoony love. Utterly. Fennel, endive, chicken... you name it. And I hear tell of a pork braised in milk....

7:20 PM, January 20, 2006  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Molly Precious Molly. Honey, I simply cannot relate to what you've done to endive and I'm so tempted to tie it in with the cadaver class I've just finished at Bastyr but I shall do the impossible and restrain myself. I'm really writing about the rain. I can help steer you to a bit of brightness among the gloom. If you haven't yet been to Veil on the flats of Queen Anne on Taylor, make it your next stop. Not only is the food fabulous but the lighting makes you feel sunny all over, inside and out. Veil is draped in veils so the light coming through the many windows is dreamy to start with but the lights are tinted so the bar (where I spend most of my time) is a Cybil-Shepard-in-Moonlighting-pink and the dining room (where there's a big community table where I saw Osama Bin Laden the other night)is sunrise-sorbet-yellow. Yes, it's still raining outside but it's sunshiny inside Veil. I love the New York which they pile up on top of carrots and a slab of spud and there's some shiny stuff coating everything. It's really good. It looks like it might be a snobby kind of place (the chef used to work at a Laundry but recently switched careers and now cooks at Veil) but Eric who runs the dining room is a sweetie. He made us feel so welcome our first time there even though we were soaked and wearing workout clothes and due to a knitting disaster, covered with beige peruvian wool which closely resembled cat hair. With all that to comment on, he stayed positive and praised my blood red cashmere scarf with the mink balls on the ends (do you know it? It's my staple between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and remained silent on the rest of my rather hideous get up. Veil Mol, get yourself to Veil and bask in the glow of the fake golden orb . . .

9:54 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

KikiEats, thank you. Your comment made my day - or rather, my entire weekend, actually! I'm honored that you make the time and space to make Orangette a part of your world. Cheers to you, your family, and your kitchen.

Lindy, have you written about any of your endive-braising methods? I'll have to hop over and look...

Ivonne, thank you! And yes, All About Braising is a must-have. In fact, I have to restrain myself to keep Orangette from turning into an ode to Molly Stevens! If you don't yet own her book, you should...

Ilva, I hope they were delicious...

Amy, I hadn't heard of New Vegetarian, but it is now officially on my "to buy" list. That endive-leek-white-bean-potato thing sounds right up my alley, as you well know. Many thanks, my dear. [P.S. Just to make sure: you do mean "smoky" mashed potatoes, right? If so, that may be my favorite typo ever. "Smooky" reminds me of "spooky," which is what my mother calls boogers - i.e., "Here's a Kleenex. You've got a spooky."]

Michele, something tells me that your endive sauteed in butter will make an appearance in my kitchen soon. Mmm, mmm.

Thank you, Simona.

And awww, foodiechickie, thank you!

Luisa, this book most certainly does belong on your shelf. Do NOT waste time! Buy! It! Now! Be warned, though, that it might have the unwanted side effect of stealing you away from your LA and NY Times recipes...

GooberNGrape, your endive salad ideas sound delicious! If you can share the secrets of your place of employment - pretty please? - what kind of dressing are you using with the endive, frisee, and gruyere? And your blood orange version sounds dreamy too - just perfect for the season. And as for the roasting-vs.-braising debate, I'm curious to hear your impressions, post-braise. Braising might not deliver those good, crispy edges that come with roasting, but because most braised dishes start with a good searing on the stovetop, the finished dish can still have that luscious caramelly quality. You're probably already discovering this yourself! Many thanks for the excellent vegetarian suggestion of Parmesan cheese, by the way. It's a great idea, and one I'll have to try myself next time...

Tania, you have quite a treat in store!

Thank you, Anonymous. GooberNGrape, above, have offered a wonderful suggestion using Parmesan cheese, and I wholeheartedly second it. Molly Stevens states in the original recipe that you can simply omit the prosciutto for a vegetarian version, but I would miss the complex, salty tang it brings. A good, nutty Parmigiano Reggiano could be just the ticket...

Katy, I am so sorry that your host family destroyed endive for you! Please, ma cherie, do give them another go. You'll find nothing waterlogged, squashy, or squeaky here. Phew!

Shauna, my dear, you have very, very good taste in cooking methods. I think a braise-fest is in order. Get out your calendar...

And Rebecca, my favorite faux cat hair-covered, cadaver-studying Pilates maven and former employer, you destroy me. As you would say, I'm crazy about you, honey. I have missed you terribly, although I must admit that the Princess of Pain taught a very good class this morning. Nonetheless, I am in desperate need of a Rebecca fix! My cuticles are a mess! My breakfasts are not nearly fatty enough! I'm spending far too little time on Queen Anne! Clearly, dinner at Veil is in order, or, barring that, breakfast at Jimmy's. In the meantime, sun. Much sun... xo

10:38 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger T said...

Im really very intrigued by this dish, Molly. Im going to have to try it. While I cant bring myself to eat raw endive, I usually pan carmelize it for 15 minutes until its soft and brown and deliciously sweet. Braising sounds like a nice change to me, though, especially in these winter months :-)

11:04 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger amylou said...

Molly, Molly, how can you have a food blog and never have heard of smooky potatoes? I mean really.

(There were actually two mistakes in that original comment--in reality they are smoky cheese mashed potatoes. Although when I made the dish I left out the smooky stuff altogether.)

11:56 PM, January 21, 2006  
Anonymous GooberNGrape said...

at the risk of over-posting, and in no particular order i submit the following:

the previously mentioned frisee and endive salad is tossed with cubed Gruyere (only slightly bigger than 1/4" dice-- good bite-sized pieces) and a mustard-shallot vinaigrette. again: very simple, but really tasty.

the endive turned out great friday night. i reduced the amount of [vegetable] stock and added almost a quarter cup of [oaky] chardonnay, because...well, why not.

i topped the finished dish with strips of Parmesan and lightly browned them under the broiler. it turned out to be a good substitution in lieu of crispy prosciutto. the broiled cheese was just crunchy enough to contrast with the soft endive. but,
the only problem might have been only using about half the amount of endive (all i had on hand) and not reducing the amount of liquid in proportion. as a result, slightly too much liquid remained and i was afraid to leave it in the oven to reduce because 1) something naughty might have happened to the cream, or... 2) is it possible to over-cook during braising-- can a braised vegetable become too soft?
ultimately i liked the end result. i think the key was getting a good sear on the cut endive in cast iron at the start of the whole operation.

compared to roasting out-right, braising is an interesting process. i will do it again. however, because of the bad proportions this time, the wine seemed to overpower the dish, just slightly.

coincidentally that night, i found a head of cauliflower in the back of the fridge and went back to check your recipes, Molly, because i thought you'd posted one for braised cauliflower... when in Rome, as it were.
turns out, your post was for caramelized roasted cauliflower, so i went along. slicing sections as opposed to separating smaller florets is a great method. talk about crunchy caramelly edges. wow. dinner was really delicious. plus, tonight, the cauliflower is making its way into curried leftovers. by the many heads of Vishnu (coupled with a Kabocha, garbonzos and kaffir) i think i have another winner for dinner.

happy future braising.

9:22 PM, January 22, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Molly, let me be the first to congratulate you on your win for BEST FOOD BLOG!!! I'm so happy for you, and you deserve this so much. Congratulations a million times, my friend!

9:49 AM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

Let me be the second to congratulate you. So well deserved, my dear. I'm so happy and proud for you.

1:27 PM, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I made these this weekend. So, so, SO yummy. The endives alone were fantastic, and I'm happy to have discovered a new way to eat them. But also, the heavy cream and prosciutto? These a happy girl make.

And I believe All About Braising is en route from Amazon to my family's house. We're all a bit head over heels for you.

Which seems as good a segue as any to say that I too snuck over to The Accidental Hedonist ... YAHOO! I'm pleased as my excellent 21st birthday punch for you.


1:53 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Tanvi, if you have already discovered the joys of caramelized endive, the braised stuff is a no-brainer! Happy winter dining to you...

Amy, I hang my head in shame. Man, I have got to learn about these smooky mashed potatoes. Come to think of it, though, I like your solution to go without the smooky stuff. I imagine that the flavors of the endive, leek, and white beans would shine through much better that way. Yum.

GooberNGrape, post away! There's no such thing as over-posting. Thanks for the details on the salad - if you'll believe it, I dreamed about it last night, actually. In any other forum, this would be considered a sad use of sleep, but as you might imagine, I found it quite delicious. And I'm glad to hear of your measured success with the braised endive, excess liquid and excess winey flavor notwithstanding! Many thanks for reporting back, and yes, please do give it another shot. With the proper proportions, I'm sure it would be spot-on. I'll have to try it soon, myself, with the cheese substitution too. And last but not least, yes, three cheers for caramelized cauliflower! Aren't those crispy, browned edges fantastic? Your curry variation is undoubtedly a hands-down winner. Excellent thinking...

Melissa and Shauna, my dear friends, thank you! Really, I'm astounded by this whole thing. Wow. Thanks for sharing the ride with me, ladies.

And Lisa, my dear, I'm so happy to hear that the endive met with your approval - and not the least bit surprised, frankly, given your very smart palate. Many thanks for all your wonderful comments and cheer! And hot damn, happy, happy birthday!

9:09 PM, January 23, 2006  
Blogger Pille said...

Hi Molly, I've never cooked endive before. I can't actually remember eating it before, although I definitely know the veg. You may have just inspired me to give it a go:)
And congrats on the Food Blog Award!!!

4:04 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger MEM said...

About vegetarian options for replacing the piggier components of braised crucifer recipes...

As soon as I saw this, I immediately started thinking about what version of pork emulation I'd use. I've realized that, whatever vegetarian approach I take, it's never going to achieve true baconicity (prosciutticity in this case?).

So, in addition to doing technique-oriented things to bring out a browner flavor (caramelizing or roasting, for example), we've been using tiny amounts of the following in various combinations to compensate for the lack of meat in these kinds of braised vegetable dishes: pimenton (or smoked mild paprika, used in making sausages); smoked cheese (we normally use a hard goat cheese for sharper flavors or gouda for milder); truffle oil (might be nice with the braised cabbage recipe below)...

Anyway, it's a subject close to my heart, thought i'd share. Happy eating!

6:00 AM, January 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, no, that punch was many many moons ago (some 84 of them or so?) -- but delicious enough to still get talked about, and made over and over again in various "I think it had a little bit of this" renditions. I did have a different birthday last month -- I don't celebrate them quietly, and am always happy for an excuse to cram loads of people into a small New York living room for brunch! I'm going to see if I can't entice folks again (for brunch, I mean) before I leave New York next month.

But anyhow, these days, it's All About You! I'm going to be quite far from my kitchen for a while, when I leave New York -- (pauses to clutch her collar and catch her breath) -- so I will depend on you even more for my vicarious culinary delights. But no pressure! Orangette is just such a dependable-but-always-new joy, like settling into your favorite pair of old pajamas with a glass of big spicy red wine and a thick juicy book you've never heard of, given as a gift by a friend whose taste never falters.

What I'm saying is thank you. I love reading Orangette and will stick around as long as you do.


8:46 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Anne said...

I met with endives in France, beforethat I didn't know that lettuce came in different sizes, let alone different shapes and colors! Since my French husband has a tough time eating cooked endive because he found them bitter as a child, I have trouble cooking them. But living and cooking in France, and with them being in season, it's tough to avoid them!

This recipe, just might change my mind. It looks so tasty. (Can I do that too?)

The only way I've done them cooked is the classic: endives with béchamel sauce. Un classique, n'est-ce pas?

Great veggie entry!

8:53 AM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Pille, it's high time that your plate saw some endive! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

MEM, your "pork emulation" ideas are ingenious! Especially that gouda suggestion - maybe a 4- or 5-year gouda, good and caramelly? Or that pimenton de la Vera? Definitely worth a go, preferably soon. And Brandon will swoon, I'm certain, over the truffle oil idea. He's a fiend for the stuff, and rightfully so. Thank you!

Lisa, my dear, all birthday confusion aside, if you ever feel like sharing that punch recipe (or formula, or rough sketch), you know how to find me. But in the meantime, are you leaving New York for good? Hmph. I don't like the sound of this...

Thank you, Anne! I would certainly urge you to try this recipe, even on your endive-phobic husband. Endive's strident bitterness softens quite miraculously with braising, pork, and cream. And about this bechamel rendition: how could I have never tasted this? The shame! It sounds divine...

10:07 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. There are times when I think things just happen for a reason. This is a fine example. I found your blog quite by accident when looking for general food sites on the web. I was trying to find something to make with some prosciutto I had that was getting old. Thing is went to your site not because of the prosciutto on the recipe, but because I saw that you had won the best food blog award. This endive post was the first one I read. It sounded so wonderful that I had to make it right away. I left work early and headed straight to the store. All I can say is wow! This is a sublime dish. The soft somewhat sticky, salty prosciutto transforms into lightly chewy deeply flavored bits that blended so well with the soft rich endive that it was a match made in heaven. You hooked me with one post and recipe. I have joined your legion of foodie readers and may never leave. ;-) Thanks for sharing.

12:36 PM, February 02, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, I'm a bit belated in saying so, but thank you for sharing. You're welcome here anytime.

9:58 PM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger Minti said...

Hi Molly,
I would have loved it if I could look inside your book on Amazon.com. I think other people would like that too. Any chance you can
convince your publisher of the same?

5:46 PM, January 07, 2009  
Blogger rhia said...

I just ordered that cookbook. Wow does that endive dish look amazing!

11:21 AM, April 19, 2010  

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