Endives gratinées au jambon de pays

This recipe adds a couple of twists to a French classic, endives au jambon, which is enjoyed across the north of the country in the winter months. Twist Number 1: Dry-cured ham is used instead of the traditional baked ham. This adds sophistication and flavor. Twist Number 2: Cream is used instead of béchamel sauce, making for a lighter dish. Travesty! Yes, for purists, but just try it.

Endives gratinées au jambon de pays / Endive gratin with country ham

Endives, aka Belgian endives, figure prominently in the cuisine of northern France and, you guessed it, Belgium. In the usual version of this dish, the endives are first boiled or braised and then covered with ham, smothered in béchamel and topped with grated cheese before being baked. The problem is that the béchamel, made with flour, butter and milk, is a bit heavy for contemporary tastes. Even in winter. And baked ham lacks the pizzazz of dry-cured hams like France’s Bayonne, Italy’s prosciutto or Spain’s serrano.

This version produces a flavor-packed one-dish meal that may be happily enjoyed at lunchtime or, of a winter’s evening, by the fireside, accompanied by a glass of hearty red and a green salad. For a more elaborate dinner, start with something from the sea — perhaps a curried crab remoulade or shrimp with homemade mayo. And for dessert, something fruity, like pears poached in red wine or a French apple tart.

With the start of the new year, I’d like to wish you all the very best for a pleasant, healthy and peaceful 2017. Including many cheery moments in the kitchen.

Happy cooking!


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