Endives braised with herbs and honey
Endives need be strangers no more.
For years, I just walked past the pointy, pale yellow heads of endives in the market. I’ve eaten the raw leaves many times in restaurants, usually as “boats” containing cold salads, but it seemed wasteful to buy a couple of endive heads for that purpose alone. So endives remained relative strangers. Then one day, wandering through the local open-air market, I stopped in front of a stand displaying fat, yellow endives. My wheeled shopping cart was already getting full with local bread, herbs, fruit and freshly ground coffee, but somehow, none of the usual vegetables had inspired me. I wondered what I could do with those attractive endives.
So I bought two, and took them home to cook. And discovered that I enjoy their complex bitterness, and that cooking makes that bitterness milder, and brings out almost a sweetness, like artichokes or asparagus. Experimenting with several ways of cooking endives, I found that I like them best braised, with a little honey to tame the bitterness, and herbs to round it out. Here’s the recipe that made an endive fan out of me.
- 1 large unpeeled Granny Smith apple
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt butter
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 large heads of Belgian endives
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 large bay leaf, torn into halves or thirds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Water to add as necessary
Cut the apple into eighths, and core the pieces.
Thinly cut any discolored parts off the root part of the endives, keeping the heads whole. Slice each one lengthwise. Try to cut equal-sized halves, so that they’ll cook evenly. Cut a line down the root end, from where the leaves begin to form almost down to the bottom. Don’t cut all the way through; this is only to help the endives to cook evenly.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Scatter the sugar over the melted butter. Place the endive halves, cut side down, on top. Add the apples, laying each piece down on a cut side.
Sprinkle the lemon juice over the endives and apples. Move them aside a little and add the bay leaves, thyme and honey to two or three different empty spaces in the skillet. Stir gently to dissolve the honey and shake the skillet to distribute seasonings. Add the torn pieces of bay leaf, poking them down between the pieces (you can use two very small ones instead).
Cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes without stirring. Regulate the heat so that the liquid around the endives is just simmering, not boiling away. Add water by tablespoons if it looks like the liquid in the skillet is becoming thick and candy-like, and stir to dissolve.
When the endives and apples are just tender, turn them over gently. Spoon the skillet liquids over them and continue cooking another 10 minutes. The apples should be cooked through, but not falling apart or mushy.
Remove the endives and apples to a plate. Add a few tablespoons of water to the hot skillet and stir hard, scraping up any residue as you stir. Spoon up this last bit of sauce over the endives. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and serve.
Tips and notes:
The cooking liquids will reduce and become sticky several times, so keep an eye on the skillet and add water, by tablespoons, when you see that happening. The resulting sauce should be thin, and there won’t be much of it. Take care not to add too much water at one time: you want to braise the endives, not stew them.
Related Topics: Vegetarian