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Crisp Endive Has a Mellow Side, Too

Endive makes a snappy winter salad—but grilled, braised, or sautéed, it's a brand-new vegetable

Fine Cooking Issue 29

 

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Whenever I serve cooked endive to my friends, those who have only tried it raw are always intrigued by this new treat because endive is surprisingly delicious grilled, broiled, braised, sautéed, or baked.

You’ve probably eaten raw endive and noticed how it works beautifully in salads, bringing welcome snap and freshness to winter. But I especially love exploring the unique flavor and texture of endive as a cooked vegetable—wrapped with pancetta and then grilled, or stuffed and braised in stock—where it becomes meltingly tender and develops the rich nuttiness that the raw version can only hint at.

Steve Hunter

Store endive where it’s cool and dark

At the market, endive should be snow-white, with just a little yellow at the tips. The ribs and bases should not show any browning. Heads of endive (or chicons, as they’re sometimes called) that have been in the light for more than a few hours will start to turn green and may taste bitter, so when you get them home, tuck the heads right into the vegetable crisper. Keep endive away from light and plan to use it within a few days. White heads of Belgian endive are most common, but you may run across red-edged heads, too (these taste the same as white, but heat will dull their purply-red hue).

For a salad, endive takes just minutes to prepare. Pull off any wilted or brown leaves and wipe the head with a damp towel. Wait until just before serving to slice raw endive; its cut edges brown rapidly. I like to slice the heads on the diagonal, almost whittling them to get manageable segments with interesting shapes.

Endive to be grilled, broiled, or braised benefits from a short steam first. Here’s how:

  • Shave off the rough bottom of each head, pull off any brown leaves, and rinse the heads under cold water.
  • Be sure to use a nonreactive steamer basket (stainless steel is perfect); otherwise, the endive will discolor.
  • Put four or five slices of lemon into the water at the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a simmer and put the endive in the steamer basket, leaving enough room between the heads of endive for the steam to circulate. Cover tightly and steam for 5 to 7 minutes, until the stems are barely tender and the leaves are soft. Set aside to cool.

Be sure to use a nonreactive steamer basket (stainless steel, for example) or the endive will blacken during cooking. When cooked, endive’s fibers can sometimes be a little difficult to slice with a table knife, so be sure to give your guests sharp knives.

More ways with endive

Smear whole leaves with goat cheese or Roquefort for a delicious appetizer or snack. Fold up a slice of prosciutto and lay it inside a leaf. Or try a dollop of crème fraîche and caviar.

Toss sliced endive with orange segments, watercress, and a simple vinaigrette.

Braise endive by halving heads lengthwise and browning them, cut side down, in a sauté pan until deep golden, along with diced carrots, onions, and celery. Add chicken stock and simmer, covered, until tender.

Sauté endive sliced crosswise over high heat in olive oil and butter with chopped fresh spinach, minced garlic, and a dash of dried red chile flakes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Make endive risotto by adding a cup of sliced endive at the same time you sweat the onion.

Scott Phillips

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