I've always wondered why I see people buying not just one or two endives at the market on Saturday, but sometimes six or eight or even, once, twelve. (Endive - pronounced "en" + "dive" like you're going in the pool) I've always associated this slightly bitter herb (I checked, it really is an herb!) with fancy salads, that little extra on top that makes it delicious and unusual. So how much salad would you be making if you were buying twelve endives? Then I saw the picture of the endive gratin on the side of the Knorr Béchamel sauce container. Then I asked my dear Mom on Skype - and the look of delicious memories on her face let me know that I had to try this recipe. So, after a day of thinking through the difference between obtaining your moral education from mythological narrative vs. mythological allegory in the 16th century, I turned my thoughts to our endive gratin. It turns out to be one of the most fundamental of all quick at-home French dishes, so what I'm about to show you with such tremulous pride is really the equivalent of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: it's fast, easy, delicious, and totally comforting.
These are all the ingredients you need. If I were a worthy human being, I would make my own béchamel sauce (butter, flour, milk, and a touch of nutmeg, salt and pepper) - but Knorr (yea, Swiss company!) does such a nice job of preparing a nice little carton that I went with their version. So, take your requisite number of endives, as many slices of ham as you have endives, your bechamel, and some grated cheese. Smart to have a baguette and an enormous brick of butter nearby to feed your curious kids as they come up to see what you're doing every three minutes.
Next, you boil your endives in salted water for 15 minutes.
It helps to do this on your stove whose original space might well have served as an enormous fireplace for cooking in the 17th century. Gives everything great flavor. :-)
Boiling the endives turns their tips this lovely shade of chartreuse. Let them sit for a minute, because you're about to take their warm little bodies and wrap each one in a slice of ham.
Having wrapped each endive in a slice of ham, you drizzle the béchamel sauce over them (ok you coat them in the béchamel), then sprinkle cheese all over the entire arrangement.
Bake for 20 minutes at 240Celsius (around 450Farenheit) so the cheese is all melty, the sauce is hot, the ham is slightly crispy, and the endives are truly tender. Serve it up! Avoid thinking that calling these "Elf Stockings" is going to make them appetizing to your children - it only made them suspicious about the fate of said Elf. They liked calling it a "gratin aux endives" much better.
2 days ago