Belgian Endive with Cheese Sauce and Ham

When asked for a typical Flemish dish, award winning chef Jeroen Meus immediately mentioned Belgian Endive with Cheese Sauce and Ham.
At home we found the recipe in my mother’s kookschrift, a notebook with recipes she learned as a young woman. She would cook the dish often, typically on a Sunday evening, and serve it with mashed potatoes. Her recipe is fairly straightforward: wash and clean the Belgian endive and cook it for 30 minutes (the recipe is from 1950!) in salted water. Then make a béchamel sauce, add cheese, wrap the endive in ham, spoon the sauce over the vegetables, add butter and breadcrumbs and transfer the combination to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Done!

Actually, her recipe is not very different from how Jeroen Meus prepares the dish. He doesn’t use breadcrumbs and he adds nutmeg and a splash of lemon to the sauce. He suggests steaming or braising the endive.

Most recipes mention removing the bitter core of the Belgian endive. Perhaps that was necessary in 1950, but today’s Belgian endive is not as bitter, so there is no need to do that. Belgian endive must have some bitterness.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy your Belgian Endive with a nice glass of red wine, one with a bite and not too complex. For instance a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from France, a Carmenère from Chili or a Spanish Rioja (Crianza or Joven). 

What You Need

  • For the Endive
    • 4 Belgian Endive
    • 4 slices of Excellent Organic Cooked Ham
    • For the Cheese Sauce
      • 20 grams of Flour
      • 20 grams of Butter
      • Milk
      • 75 grams of grated Cheese (preferably a combination of Gruyère and Emmentaler)
      • optional: one Egg Yolk
    • Nutmeg
    • White pepper
  • For the Mash
    • Root Parsley
    • Parsnip
    • Nutmeg
    • Fresh Parsley
    • White Pepper

What You Do

Chop the bottom of the base of the endive and remove the outer leaves if they don’t look great. Steam the endive or braise it in butter. We prefer braising in butter, which may take 30 minutes on low heat. This way you keep all the flavors and the texture. If steamed: make sure you squeeze the endives gently to get rid of the water excess.
Make the cheese sauce with flour, butter and milk, adding most of the grated cheese when the béchamel is ready. Add grated nutmeg and white pepper to taste. You could turn it into a classic Sauce Mornay by adding one egg yolk to the sauce.
Preheat the oven (200°C or 390 °F). Wrap a piece of ham around each endive and arrange in a shallow baking dish. You don’t want any space between the endive. Spoon sauce over the endive. Sprinkle remainder of the cheese over the sauce. Bake until golden brown on top, 15 to 25 minutes. We prefer using the grill.

For the Mash: clean and dice the root parsley and the parsnip (ratio 1:1). Cook quickly in a limited amount of water. When ready, drain and mash using a blender. Add nutmeg and white pepper. Just before serving add lots of finely chopped fresh parsley.

Prosciutto e Melone

Is it an ancient recipe combining wet and cold (melon) with dry and hot (cooked meat, later cured ham)? Is it an invention of famous author Pellegrino Artusi? Is it a typical sixties dish? Or is it the ideal starter for a lazy chef?

Regardless what it is, the success is the result of the quality of the ingredients. You need an excellent melon, preferably a cantaloupe. Ripe and sweet, one that fills the room with honey. And you need the best ever cured ham. Could be from Italy or Spain, as long as it paper thinly sliced with nice layers of marbled fat.

Sweet and salty, moist and dry, soft and with texture, intense aromas and long-lasting flavours. Every aspect you can think of is on your plate. No need to add anything, no ricotta, no salad, no balsamic vinegar, no pesto. It’s about the combination of two very different yet beautiful products.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy your Prosciutto e Melone with a light, refreshing wine that reflects summer. A glass of prosecco, bubbly, refined and with a touch of sweetness. But if you want to open a bottle of rosé, please do so!

What You Need

  • A ripe Melon (Cantaloupe)
  • Dry-Cured Ham (Prosciutto or Serrano)

What You Do

The melon must be cold, the ham should be at room temperature.
Slice the melon, probably in eight wedges. Remove the seeds. Use a sharp knife to cut off the rind. Wrap each wedge of melon with a slice of prosciutto, making sure you can still see the melon at the ends.

PS

It’s definitely not a recipe from Pellegrino Artusi. He describes the combination of fresh green peas (also sweet and moist) with Prosciutto. 

White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley

Finally, it’s spring. The season of white asparagus, morels and many more primeurs. This dish brings together white asparagus with eggs, excellent ham, butter, small potatoes and parsley. Taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus, the umami of the potato and enjoy the velvety feeling on your palate as a result of the butter and the egg.
Don’t be tempted to boil white asparagus in water with butter, lemon, sugar or salt. Steaming is by far the best way to prepare them. We love our Russel Hobbs food steamer! Simple, straightforward and the result is a tribute to spring.

Wine Pairing

Ideally we would serve a dry Muscat from the Elzas with our asparagus. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with white asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. As if you taste the original grape. A wonderful wine and a wonderful combination.
Fortunately asparagus are fairly flexible when it comes to wine: a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris will also be fine.

We opened a bottle of Vinho Verde from Portugal. A light and vibrant wine with clear notes of citrus and floral aromas that combined rather well with the flavours of the asparagus. Not the most exquisite combination, but it worked for us.

What You Need

  • 6 or 10 White Asparagus
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 gram Excellent, Organic Ham
  • Small Firm Potatoes
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Peel the asparagus and steam them for 20 minutes. Steam the eggs medium (10 minutes), making sure the yolk is firm but not dry. Wash the potatoes and steam them for 15 minutes. Timing depends on the size. Melt the butter. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs on a plate. Coat the potatoes with butter and parsley. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat) and potatoes. Poor the remaining melted butter over the asparagus. Sprinkle the parsley over the egg. Add some white pepper.

White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley ©cadwu
White Asparagus with Ham, Egg, Potatoes and Parsley ©cadwu

White asparagus with Egg, Ham, Parsley and Butter

A Classic

White asparagus is such a great vegetable! In this recipe we describe the classic way of serving asparagus: A la Flamande. This way you will be able to taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus. The butter and egg bring a feeling of velvet to your palate, which is ideal to taste the asparagus. The parsley and white pepper give a touch of sharpness to the dish.

Wine Pairing

Serve the white asparagus with a dry Muscat from the Elzas. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with white asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. When drinking it is if you’re tasting the original grape. Wonderful wine and wonderful combination.
We recently combined the asparagus with a Riesling (2015, Trocken, Meulenhof) from the German Mosel region. Worked very well.

What You Need

  • 3 or 5 White Asparagus per person
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 gram Ham
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Steam the white asparagus and cook or steam the eggs medium, making sure the yolk is not set but also not running. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs warm on a plate. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat) and butter; sprinkle the parsley over the plate. Add some white pepper.
As an alternative warm the butter and pour it gently over the asparagus.

White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley
White Asparagus with Egg, Ham and Parsley