Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chicon au gratin.

One of my favourite meals as a child was chicon au gratin.  Chicon (endives) are a Belgian staple when they're in season, and it's a huge crop there.  Endive is delicious served fresh, chopped into little pieces in a mayonnaise/lemon vinaigrette. It's the BEST salad to have with a rare tuna steak.  Mmm. But endives are also delicious cooked. They have a natural sweetness and bitterness that just works wonders with cheese and savory foods.

This dish is particularly good for our weight watchers regime because even with cheese sauce, it's surprisingly light.  I've learned to make a light cheese sauce without going through the effort of making a real béchamel which requires butter and flour. This meal amounts to about 14 points (if you use two medium potatoes per serving).  I reached 19 lbs this morning by the way. It's so exciting! I've gone down two sizes.  Anyway... I digress; here goes:

Start with four fresh endives. These California-grown endives are a bit anemic as endives go, but they'll do the trick. They can be a bit expensive, but you only need four for this recipe.

The first thing you are going to do is cut out a little cone out of the base. It will make them less bitter. It's something Tati taught me, so just do it. :)

Once you've done that, you want to put them in a pot and boil them until they turn a sage green and are softened. Not too long.

I actually took these out too soon, They were still a slight bit under cooked.  Anyway, quarter them lengthwise when they're properly cooked.

Now it's time to pull out the deli-style lean ham.  Cut super thin, it's 1 point for six slices! So you take a quarter of the endive and put it on the ham.  Roll it up like a taquito.

Put your little ham-rolls into a shallow baking dish.  Now for the sauce.  You can do it the proper way, béchamel and all or do it the weight-watchers way.  For a béchamel, you will heat a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, and let it brown a bit.  Add in a tablespoon of flour and brown it, and then add the milk gradually while whisking.  Then you'd add in your cheese etc.  

I put 3/4 of a cup of 2% milk into a saucepan, and added some grated nutmeg, a little bit of salt and pepper.  

You want to use a good, firm gruyere.  Some domestic cheesemakers think that gruyere should be like a softer cheese, it should not.  It should be a firm cheese with a strong flavour. If you want a bit of a kick, add a little bit of parmesan. I used about a cup and a quarter (or 12 points on the scale) of grated gruyere.

Bring the milk to a simmer, and add in the grated cheese, whisking all the while.  I added a couple of teaspoons of corn-starch to thicken up the sauce, I confess.

Once you get the sauce where you want it, pour it over your little ham-rolls.

Sprinkle some cheese over it and huck it into the oven at 375°.  While that's cooking, take out four small/medium sized potatoes and cut them in two, and then quarter those.

Pop them into a pot with some water and a sprinkle of salt.

Boiled potatoes are a big staple in farm-country in Belgium. They are completely integral to the yumminess of this meal.  

When it's baked, broil it for a second to get a nice brown crust on the top.  Serve it up with your potatoes, sauce and a nice green salad.  Voila.  It's SO good, trust me.  Bon appétit.

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