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Endive and Ham Gratin

Endive and Ham Gratin
When baked au gratin, Belgian endive’s pale green spears are transformed into a rich, elegant dish well suited for chilly evenings. Use the smallest endives you can find for this recipe.
    1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2. 6 to 8 small Belgian endives (or slice larger heads in half vertically)
    3. ½ teaspoon salt
    4. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    5. 3 tablespoons water
    Cheese Sauce
    1. 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
    2. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    3. 1½ cups whole milk, warmed
    4. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    5. 2 ounces aged Havarti, grated
    6. ¼ teaspoon salt
    7. ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
    8. ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    To Assemble
    1. 6 to 8 thin slices ham
    2. 1 ounce aged Havarti, grated
    3. Nutmeg, for sprinkling
      1. Heat oven to 325°F. Melt butter in a large oven-safe pan over medium heat. When foamy, add endives and salt and cook, turning occasionally, until leaves start to brown and soften, about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and water, cover pan with a piece of parchment paper, and bake until endives are cooked through, about 45 to 60 minutes. When done, endives should be wilted and browned at edges and yield easily to the tip of a paring knife. Set aside to cool and increase oven temperature to 350°F.
      Cheese Sauce
      1. While endive is braising, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until a smooth, golden-brown paste (roux) forms, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, whisk in milk in a slow stream, and cook, stirring, 5 minutes more. Add mustard and continue whisking. Add cheese and continue whisking until completely melted into sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in salt, nutmeg, and cayenne. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until mixture has thickened. Set aside.
      To Assemble
      1. Pour ¼ cup cheese sauce into a 9-inch baking dish (a shallow gratin dish is best). When endives have cooled, wrap each with a slice of ham and place, seam side down, into baking dish. Pour ¾ to 1 cup cheese sauce over endives, depending on how saucy you like it. Sprinkle with Havarti and a pinch of nutmeg. Return to oven and bake 30 minutes or until gratin is bubbling and exposed edges of ham crisp up. Turn on broiler, center dish underneath, and cook an additional 5 minutes or until cheese starts to brown—watch carefully! Let cool 10 minutes and serve.
      culture: the word on cheese https://culturecheesemag.com/

      Leigh Belanger

      Leigh Belanger is culture's former food editor. She's been a food writer, editor, and project manager for over a decade— serving as program director for Chefs Collaborative and contributing to local newspapers and magazines. Her first book, The Boston Homegrown Cookbook, was published in 2012. She lives and cooks in Boston with her family.