14 November 2006

Belgium Endive, New England-style

It's not really my intention to turn this into another food blog, but since so much of my mood depends on how I eat I felt this post would be an appropriate end to a very nice day.

This past weekend a small group of us were invited to D's house for a home-cooked meal before an evening of snooker (to be discussed in a future entry.) D owns a lovely home on the outskirts of Leuven with, among other things, a recently-remodeled, KILLER kitchen. Now, I've been doing my best in my little studio with two pots, two burners, one spatula, and a variety of generic dried spices to recreate the kind of meals I'm used to cooking at home with Z. But I must admit that one can only eat so many stir fries and pasta dishes before one gets, well, more than a little bored. So I was very pleased that, among other deliciously fatty dishes on the menu was included some wonderful endive stewed in a sweet cream sauce.

Endive, called "witloof" in Dutch, is a rather bitter root vegetable that is most often served in salads (leaves only), stewed, fried, or baked. Since the weekend I've had endive on the brain and so went to see what good ol' Chris Kimball and his staff at Cook's Illustrated had to offer in the way of innovative recipes. Number 1 on the list was an interesting-looking braised endive with apples. I thought this would be a good way to put a distinctly New England twist on a traditional Belgian vegetable, especially on a gray, rainy November day. So tonight I passed on stir fry and pasta in favor of a "real" meal!

I've pasted the recipe below. I did not follow the recipe exactly--Jonagold apples instead of Granny Smith and apple juice instead of cider--and I'm afraid the full range of flavors was a little muddled. But it was what I would call "mildly" successful, and I'll definitely try it again. My thanks to Chris Kimball who, I'm sure, was quite determined to "turn the usual mushy cooked endive into something even my old meat-and-potatoes neighbor up the hill would eat."

Cider-Braised Belgian Endive with Apples

To avoid discoloration, do not cut the endive far in advance of cooking. Delicate endive can fall apart easily if not handled gently. Move the halved endive in the pan by grasping the curved sides gingerly with tongs and supporting the cut sides with a spatula while lifting and turning. You will need a skillet with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
table salt
4 Belgian endive , medium sized (about 4 ounces each), wilted or bruised outer leaves discarded and each endive halved lengthwise
Granny Smith apple , peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
1/2 cup apple cider , plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon
minced fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat; when foam subsides, sprinkle sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt evenly over skillet and set endive (cut-sides down) and apples in a single layer. Cook, shaking skillet occasionally to prevent sticking and adjusting burner if browning too quickly, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn endive and apples over and cook until curved sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Carefully turn endive cut-sides down. Add 1/2 cup of the cider, and thyme; reduce heat to low, cover skillet tightly, and simmer, checking occasionally and adding 2 tablespoons water if pan appears dry, until leaves open up slightly and endive and apples are tender throughout when pierced with tip of paring knife, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer endive and apples to warmed serving platter; set aside.

2. Add remaining two tablespoons of cider to the skillet and increase heat to medium-high to bring liquid in skillet to boil; simmer until reduced to syrupy consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in remaining tablespoon butter and parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, spoon sauce over endive and apples, and serve immediately.

No comments: