ENDIVE ham roll CHEESE sauce gratin

Baked ENDIVE ham rolls smothered in...
deliciously lightened, creamy three CHEESE sauce 'au gratin'.

The added bonus was that the cheese 'fondue' type sauce...
generated extra to pour over natural corn tacos...what a treat.

A prized member of the CHICORY family...
the elongated crisp white or red ENDIVE...
has been enjoyed in substantial amounts worldwide.

However, some are not familiar with this vegetable...
and many still shy away from it...
especially in its cooked version.

Did the ENDIVE...'Witloof' (White leaf)...
or as the French call it the 'Chicon'...
get its origin in Belgium?
Or...did this endive originate entirely somewhere else?

I would imagine that most would convincingly believe the former statement accompanied by the interesting tale which came out of Brussels during the mid-1800'S.  Legend has it that a botanical garden keeper named M. Bréziers had one year been blessed with more Chicory crop than usual.  Being the usual tight-wad...he made the decision not to pay more taxes than he needed to on his extra roots (used as a coffee substitute).  He quickly concocted a plan to hide the Chicory and its roots in the dark cellar in basins of earth so that no one would suspect.
A few weeks later when tax reporting time was over...he went to his cellar to unearth the chicory for continual consumption.  However, to his surprise he witnessed a beautiful sight of white rockets shooting out of the earth where he had hid his surplus chicory.

At this point, he was probably very pleased with himself.

Curious, he had a taste and liked the tender crunch at first bite.  Much later his discovery was shared with a horticulturist who refined the production to develop less bitter qualities.  He understood that the endive deprived of sunlight would retain better moisture, whiter leaves as well as realizing a 'bitterless' vegetable as opposed to when grown with the rest of the exposed chicory.  It then arrived on the market in 1846...however, it truly began to be widely consumed after the First World War.
One could say, that in big part, because of M. Brézier's desire to evade taxes...we now, have him to thank for enjoying a vegetable that would otherwise not have been discovered.   Therefore, the 'Witloof' or as most would call the 'Belgian Endive' was born!?! Not so, say some authorities.  They believed that the endive was certainly introduced to Europe by the East Indies.   Others also disputed this by claiming that it was more probably indigenous to Egypt.  ref.: Encyclopedia Britannica

Well, there you have it...
here we go again with some conflicting re-counts of the battle of the origins.
Brings back memories of the TiraMiSù dessert tale ;o) remember?

What do you think or would like to believe?
Personally, in some twisted way...since I'm a sly romantic at heart just like our M. Bréziers...
I'd like to think that my favoured salad would actually have such a wonderful tale attached.
It certainly makes for a much more interesting background...does it not?

Besides its unique, flavourful, tangy taste...
this is why the Endive figures prominently in my cuisine.

Can any one leaf of salad match the single calorie that one Endive leaf holds?
Can they also match how many minerals and vitamins it holds?

This unique tasting vegetable is a health powerhouse.

It is fiber generous as it cleanses your liver, digestive system and manages to regulate your glucose levels.

Endives can also help to reduce some heart diseases since it prevents the absorption of cholesterol into your blood stream.

It apparently serves as a natural remedy for lung weaknesses which is a welcomed treatment I'll personally accept any day.

The last statement is one of the reasons I have endives as part of my weekly menu.

I've always enjoyed endives mostly in their raw state...
and yet, never truly considered cooking them.

During the holidays, I had a chance to view a French Québécois cooking show...where this very talented chef prepared an Endive Ham Béchamel Gratin.
The idea appealed to me immediately...so I quickly jotted down the fine points and figured I'd fill in the blanks with my own style of cooking.
Now, what do you think came next?...Yep, the next time I found myself at the produce aisle...I bee-lined to the endive section to see if the selection would be appropriate for this type of recipe.  I was in luck...there were many endives tucked under the bluish paper...safe from the damaging bright light that would otherwise turn these wonderful rockets to go bitter and lose their wonderful pale white, yellow hue.  This is to certainly tell you that for obvious reasons...I never buy the exposed endives!
Next came time to visit the cheese and cold cuts counter to buy very fine cooked ham along with the very important selection of cheeses for the white sauce that was to drape over the rolls.

TIP: keep in mind that if you were to think of making this dish or eat the endives in their delicious raw state...please make the effort to wipe each endive as well as wrapping each one individually in non-chlorinated brown paper.  I promise, this extra step will prove to be well worth your time as it truly offers great preservation results.

At first, the intention was to create an elegant dish...
and then I also had the idea of turning it into a casual comfort.
Great for a unique healthy snack...
especially after playtime.


ENDIVE ham rolls 
with CHEESE sauce gratin
serves 4
Prep and cooking time total: 45 minutes

Click HERE to get PRINTER version of RECIPE

(American / Metric measures)

. 8 Endives (medium, unblemished)
. 8 slices cooked ham (thin and long)
 ...Cheese Sauce:
. 1/8 cup (30ml) unsalted butter
. 1/4 cup (40g) All-Purpose flour
. 1-1/2 cups (375ml) milk (1%+ fat)
. 1/8 cup (30ml) fortified Sherry or White wine
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) Dijon mustard
. 1 tsp. (5ml) ground nutmeg
. 1/4 tsp. (1.75ml) sea salt
. 1 tsp. (5ml) granulated garlic powder*
. 2 cups (260g) Cheese blend ** grated and packed

. * 1 tsp. (5ml) 'fleur d'ail' (garlic flower) or 1 tiny crushed garlic clove can replace the granulated garlic powder 
. ** Cheese Mix possibility:  Gruyere, strong Cheddar and Parmesan OR Friulano, Juraflore and Parmesan

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas4.
Position rack at the bottom level of the oven.

...STEAMING endives:
1. Prepare the steaming pot...with simmering water.
2. Wash and core endives: slice thinly the bottom part and cut a sizable cone from the heart part of each endive. . Steam on medium heat for about 25 minutes or until tender.
Note: As you cut the cores, it's suggested to temporarily place them vertically in a bowl of lemon water and a pinch of sugar. This is not an absolute step...however, it does keep them whiter and keeps the slight bitterness in check.
...CHEESE 'béchamel' sauce:
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on MEDIUM heat and quickly whisk in the flour to create a 'roux'.    After a few seconds, the flour will appear cooked.  
4. Add a very small amount of milk.  Whisk until a smooth consistency is reached. 
5. Then, gradually add the rest of the milk to fully combine.  Also, add in the chosen wine and continue to whisk until thickening begins.
6. After a few minutes, when the sauce starts thickening, test it on the back of a spoon.  Pass your finger in the center to see a dividing line that remains set.  It's ready.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
7. Add the Dijon mustard, seasonings and the blend of cheeses.  Stir to combine.

Note: Remember that before getting ready to use this warm sauce, don't forget to whisk it randomly in order to avoid a undesirable thick forming surface.

...ASSEMBLY of Endive wrap-rolls:
8. Once the Endives have been steamed and cooled slightly to the touch...gently squeeze any possible water and pat to slightly dry.
9. Lay each ham slice vertically away from you and roll an endive into it.  In a single layer, place all rolls side by side in a glass Pyrex or other shallow dish.
10. Pour the cheese sauce over the endive-ham rolls.  Spread the remaining shredded cheese on top.
11. BAKE for 15 minutes.  At the very end, in order to achieve the 'gratin'...just place the baking dish to the upper Broiler level with the low broiler setting for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
...Serving suggestion:
. This dish can be served along with potatoes as well as pasta or any other grain. For a more rustic and casual dish...add some chips, toasted breads and tacos as excellent accompaniments.  Voila, bon appetit.

Hope you'll have a chance to enjoy the endive this way.

Personally after this experience...
I'll certainly be willing to use the endive other than in its raw state.

How about you...
has the endive been enjoyed at your table?
Have you cooked with it?
If not, has this recipe piqued your interest ;o)

Flavourful wishes,

Comments ...???... suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SAVOURY creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later. 

Some interesting external links to appreciate more recipes with the ENDIVE:

Other dishes that may interest you:
- clever Stuffed CABBAGE roll CUPS...How to make roll cups
- EGGPLANT cheese RED PEPPER loaf 
- MILLET stuffed Bell PEPPER cups
- Tortilla crust Veggie Ricotta Quiche