Grilled stuffed endives with vermicelli noodles

When cooked, endives have a nutty and almost sweet flavor.

Ravenous Couple
Grilled stuffed endives with vermicelli noodles with a Vietnamese twist.

Happy New Years everyone! We hope you've all had a festive holiday – we sure did, hopping from one party to the next with seemingly nonstop eating. So we've been eager to get back into the kitchen and get cooking again. Developing recipes and trying new ingredients two favorite things we love about cooking. We love to pretend we are iron chefs, bouncing ideas off each other to planning a dish. So when Casey of Kitchen Play contacted us to develop a recipe with a yet to be determined secret ingredient, we were all in. Kitchen Play hosts a monthly contest around a unique virtual Progressive Party where six food bloggers are each assigned one of the following courses: cocktail, amuse bouche, salad, appetizer/soup, entrée and dessert to create using a specified product.

This month all six bloggers, including us were challenged to incorporate California endives into six different courses and our assignment was entree. At first we thought it would be a daunting task as the only times we've ever eaten endives were as appetizers or salads. We were also asked to make it Asian inspired. Another tough request as we couldn't recall any Asian recipes that called for endives.

This was a great challenge as we learned so much about endives. First, we found out we were pronouncing endives all wrong. There are in fact two types, the CURLY ENDIVE pronounced EN-DIVE such as escarole and frisee and the smooth and elongated BELGIAN ENDIVE pronounced ON-DEEV. Regardless, they are both in the same chicory family and are loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals and have great flavor profiles in both raw and cooked forms. When raw, endives have a crisp and slightly bitter taste but when cooked, have a nutty and almost sweet flavor.

So our main entree we came up with is a grilled stuffed endives with vermicelli noodles, similar to the bun dishes found in Vietnamese restaurants.

Vietnamese grilled stuffed endives with vermicelli

Serves 4-6

Meat Stuffing
1 lb. of either ground pork, chicken or beef
2 tablespoons of finely minced lemon grass
1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot
1-1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of cracked pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8-10 medium sized California Endives (save two for raw accompaniment)

Noodles and Accompaniments
1 package of thin vermicelli rice noodles
1/2 cups raw California endives, thinly julienned across the grain
2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
2 tablespoons of scallion oil (heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, remove from heat and add 2 tbs finely chopped scallions)
fresh herbs such as mint, basil, diced cucumbers
nuoc mam cham
pickled carrots and daikon

Prepare noodles in advance by boiling according to directions, drain, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine meat with garlic, shallots, lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, oil and mix well and set aside in fridge for flavors to meld.
Prepare endives by cutting the end and separating each leaf (California endives are not grown in dirt and are handled under sanitary conditions, so there is actually no need to wash, but if desire, wash and rinse dry) Stuff each endive with the meat mixture, being careful not to overstuff. The endives will form a natural cup – fold over the edges of the endive over the leaf. Brush each stuffed endive on both sides with oil and lightly season with additional fresh cracked salt and pepper.

Add small amount of cooking oil to grill pan over medium heat and carefully add the stuffed endives meat side down. Allow meat to cook, brown, and develop sear marks by not moving the endives, roughly 3-4 minutes. Turn over and sear the endive side another 30-40 seconds and remove from heat and set aside. In same pan, heat another 2 tbs of oil and when hot add the scallions and remove from heat.
In a serving bowls, add vermicelli noodles, raw julienned endives, fresh herbs such as mint and basil, diced cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon. Add the hot grilled stuffed endives and top with coarsely roasted peanuts and scallion oil. Add nuoc mam cham to taste and enjoy.

Hong Pham and Kim Bao blog at Ravenous Couple.

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