Braised endives

Braising endives reduces its bitter edge and draws out more subtle flavors.

Novel Eats
Endives are an elegant member of the lettuce family. Endives can be used for dips, in salads, or served braised, broiled, baked, grillled or sautéed.

You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve missed cooking, I mean really cooking over the last few weeks. I’ve made a few things here and there, but my community supported agriculture (CSA) veggies and groceries have been aging and wilting ever since I have been putting in so many extra hours at work. A couple of weeks ago, the people over at California Vegetable Specialties sent me a complimentary bouquet of endive (pronounce it on-deev and you’ll feel French for about a minute), plus a few extra, and I was crossing my fingers that they would last until I could use them the soonest. It really bothers me when I get such amazing produce and it winds up going to waste because of little time or energy available to me.

I was so excited this weekend, when I finally was in the kitchen, to discover that every single head of endive was usable. A miracle. Or a miracle of packaging. I have never seen endive with its root still attached, but the root is about the same length or longer than the endive plant. The bouquet I received all had the root still attached to each, and I imagine that this is what helped to keep them intact.

Endive, as a general rule is very bitter raw. I had it raw a few years ago and didn’t like it, but I read recently that the French frequently cook it, thus reducing the bitterness and bringing out some of the more subtle flavors. As soon as I found out that I would be getting some endive in the mail, I knew I’d be braising it.

There are many different recipes out there for braised endive, but I decided to go with a vegan adaptation of an adaptation of Julia Child’s braised endive. Prep time is fast, but it spends some quality time in the oven. You can make this ahead of time and reheat, or just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this before serving – about 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Braised Endive
This recipe is based upon Julia Child’s Braised Endive at Sippity Sup

12 small, or 8 large Belgian endives
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
1/2 lemon, juiced or 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons vegan butter, sliced into 1/2 tablespoon pieces (if making this gluten-free, be sure the vegan butter you use is gluten-free – not all vegan butters are)
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced as garnish, optional
Vegenaise, optional [an egg-free mayonnaise]

Prepare the endive for cooking by trimming the root ends of the endive, being careful to ensure that the leaves remain attached. Remove any wilted leaves and cut out the brown portions. Wash under cool running water.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange the endives in a single layer in a stove top and oven-proof casserole or baking dish just large enough to accommodate them.

Add the salt, water, lemon juice and vegan butter. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and simmer on top of the stove, until just tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the cover and lay a piece of parchment cut to size onto the surface of the vegetables. Place into the preheated oven and bake about two hours. Baste the endive several times during cooking with the liquid in the dish. If you do not have a baster, just use a ladle or large spoon to pour the liquid over the endive. You may need to add more water to make sure that the liquid remain at about 1/4-inch deep.

They are done when the endive is very tender and a pale golden color. Remove from the oven, discard parchment and garnish with parsley if using. Serve warm. To cut the bitter flavor down further, try serving with a little Vegenaise.

I’m definitely a fan of endive now that I’ve tried it cooked. It is still somewhat bitter, but it is not displeasing and the other flavors that come through – a bit reminiscent of steamed or baked artichokes – are really mellow, yet rich.

There are other recipes I’d love to try, and I’d even be willing to try endive raw again. But what is your favorite way to enjoy endive?

Samantha Mills writes a vegan blog at Novel Eats.

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