The Belgian Endive, is called Witloof (pronounce “wit-loaf”) here in Belgium. In Dutch, “Wit” means white and “loof” mean leaf, quite literally a “white leaf” vegetable out of the chicory family. They are not only immensely popular items on any Belgian menu, they are symbols of agricultural pride for the country. It’s not always about the Brussels Sprouts.
I’d eaten endive on many occasions before moving to Belgium, but never served warm. I’d had it served sliced raw in salads or as whole leaves serving as “cups” for hors d’oeuvres. Only when I moved here did I start eating and serving them regularly as a hot side dish.
There are many ways to serve them hot, but I will share them now roasted and delicious and incredibly simple.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4 to 6 endives
1½ cups cream or half-and-half
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar
~ ~ ~
1. By the time the endives get to you, they should be remarkably clean and dirt-free, but do rinse them over running water. Then cut three-quarters to an inch off the flat end, and remove the outside leaves just for good measure.
3. Halve your endives and lay them, pointy sides in, in a casserole dish. Using a teaspoon drizzle olive oil over the endives. Sprinkle your salt and pepper and nutmeg over them. Throw them in the oven.
~ The nutmeg will give your dish an earthier and nuttier flavor. If you’re not into earth or nuts, then salt and pepper will suffice.
4. While your endives are roasting in the oven, get the rest of your ingredients ready. Namely, your cream and butter and flour and sugar/salt/pepper.
5. Once your endives have been roasting a good 30-35 minutes, throw your butter in a saucepan over a medium flame. Keep an eye on it so there’s no browning/burning. If there is, toss it and start over. No tears, no regrets, just say goodbye to the poor butter and start over!
6. Once your butter is melted, grab your whisk in your good hand (I’m a righty so I consider my right hand my good one) and throw in the flour with your other hand, whisking the entire time.
~ What you will now have is something called a roux (pronounced “roo”) which is a fancy French word for “melted butter with flour whisked in it over a medium flame”. No, but really, it’s the basis for all sorts of creamy sauces white or brown and every shade in between.
~ You will know you did it right if and when you look into your saucepan you see a thick somewhere-between-yellow-and-orange gooey looking liquid. It should be the consistency of glue (sorry for the poor example here).
7. Keeping your whisk handy in your good hand, begin pouring in your cream (or half and half) a little bit at a time, making sure to whisk in between.
8. Once all your cream has been mixed in, throw in your sugar and a dash of salt and pepper and simmer. Be sure to continue to whisk, preventing the bottom of the saucepan from thickening and burning.
9. When you see the surface of the sauce bubbling uniformly, or after 3-5 minutes, shut off the flame. Carefully remove your casserole dish of roasted endives and pour the cream sauce over the endives. Then in your casserole dish goes, back in your oven for 10 minutes. They should look something as heavenly as this:
~The cream sauce is OPTIONAL by the way, you can serve the endives roasted out of the oven just the way they are.
10. Let sit a few minutes before plating with your main dish.
~ I chose on that particular evening to go with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I’m a huge fan of meatloaf and always looking for new sides to serve with it. Booyah. Creamy Roasted Belgian Endives.