Gratin of Caramelised Chicory in Béchamel with Ham

This is a modest but luxurious-tasting dish that can serve as a main course with a green salad and some bread. I made it for Sam, and he gave it a pretty glowing review.

Ingredients:

4 heads chicory (endive), halved lengthways, without cutting off the stem so as to keep the leaves together

1 shallot, finely sliced

4 slices of parma ham

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, and a few white breadcrumbs if you have them

White Sauce:

¾ pint whole milk

2 tablespoons plain flour

40g unsalted butter

— to infuse the milk

1 bay leaf

½ onion

a few cloves

a few peppercorns

nutmeg

How to make:

First, infuse the milk for the white sauce, by adding all of the infusion ingredients to it in a saucepan, heating until just boiling, then turn of the heat and leave.

Then, in a heavy frying pan that can go in the oven, melt a knob of unsalted butter. Season the halved heads of chicory with salt and a bit of pepper, and place, cut-side down in the pan. Cook until caramelised and slightly browning on that side, then turn over. Keep them cooking until you can stick a knife into the stem and it’s soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Cook the sliced shallot in the same pan in a small piece of butter until soft, then turn off heat.

To make the white sauce, remove the infusion ingredients by pouring through a sieve into a jug or bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and cook out for a minute or so (don’t worry that it looks like a doughy lump at the bottom of the pan). Gradually pour in milk while whisking or stirring vigorously. Keep stirring over a high heat until it thickens to the consistency of double cream. Season with salt and pepper until you are happy with the flavour. Turn off the heat.

Turn on the grill to medium-high

To assemble, wrap each piece of caramelised chicory in a piece of parma ham, place into the frying pan containing the shallots. Pour over the white sauce, and sprinkle the top with the parmesan.

Place under the grill until the top is bubbling and browned, and then serve.

Eaten with:

A green salad with a french dressing (1 teaspoon mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper), bread, and some wine.

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