Belgian endive or witloof, the pale rocket-shaped bitter green, is usually served raw in salads, or in my house, as a scoop for something like salmon mousse on a platter of hors d’oeuvre. However, it is superb as a cooked vegetable, especially in the winter, since that’s its main season. I have never seen a Belgian endive growing. From the paleness of its creamy flesh, tinged with yellow and light green, it’s obviously grown in the dark. After doing a little research, I found that the endive, which is part of the chicory family (and not to be confused with curly endive, a bitter leafy green), is grown in a two-part process. The endive that we know is actually a bud forced in a cold dark place during the winter from roots of lettuce-like plants that were grown over the summer and then dug up. Amazing. Who knew?
To braise endives, I cut them in half vertically and lay them flat in butter melted in a wide pan. I sprinkle them with lemon juice and a little sugar and salt, and then add a small amount of water. (For three endives, I used 2 tsp butter, juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp sugar, a pinch of salt and ¼ c water.) With the heat on medium low and the pan covered, the endives cook to a soft, brown and delicious state in about 30 minutes. Cook longer if they’re not browned on the bottom. Check them partway through cooking to make sure that there is water in the pan to avoid scorching.
I served the braised endives with salmon and added some roast potatoes since more people came home for dinner than I thought.