The first time I ate chicory (sometimes known as endive) it was braised for a few hours, wrapped in ham, covered in béchamel, sprinkled with grated cheese and then baked for another 30 minutes. It was also made by someone French who had a cleaner and gardener. Lacking such help around the house and
garden balcony, I have been looking for a quicker, more after-work-friendly version. This is pretty close to the real thing and, since Judith Jones was Julia Child‘s editor throughout her career I think it comes with a cast-iron, French pedigree. The braising takes about half an hour, so if you wanted you could probably squeeze in making a béchamel whilst that happens and bake rather than grill it. I didn’t but I might next time. And, if you don’t like chicory, apparently this works well with leeks too.
Braised chicory with ham and cheese (adapted from Judith Jones’ The Pleasures of Cooking for One)
Serves two (but add another endive if you’re extra-hungry)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sea salt and black pepper
whole chicory, 3 heads
good ham, 3 large slices
hard cheese (Gruyère or Emmenthal are the classics but Cheddar would be fine too), 75g
1. Trim the chicory by removing any leaves past their best and cutting off the hard root end. Then slice in half lengthwise.
2. Melt half of the butter in a lidded pan large enough to hold all of the chicory halves in one layer (I used a large lidded frying pan which was perfect). Boil a kettle-full of water whilst the butter is melting.
3. Add the chicory halves to the melted butter, cut side down and put the rest of the butter on top of the halves.
4. Squeeze the lemon half over the top of the chicory then pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the chicory. Cover and cook at a low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicory is tender and soft.
5. Whilst the chicory is braising, grate the cheese and, depending on the size of your ham slices, cut them in half so that there is enough for a piece per chicory half.
6. When the chicory is soft (it may not absorb all the water), lift it out of the pan and drain in a sieve or colander over the sink to get rid of the excess water.
7. Heat up the grill.
8. Once the chicory has drained a little, place the ham into a baking dish, put the chicory on top and wrap each half in a piece of ham. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the grated cheese then grill until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Lovely as is or with some bread to mop up any juices.