The distinctive sweet and bitter flavour of the braised Belgian endive combined with the cheese and salty bacon makes this under 30 minutes recipe an amazing and easy everyday meal.
What are Belgian endives?
Belgian endives, also locally known as ‘chicons’ in French, and ‘witloof’ or ‘witlof’ in Dutch are small white cylindrical shaped vegetables with a yellowish head. Although Belgian endives can be purchased all year round, the best quality can be found in Winter season, from December to April. During these Winter months they can surely be considered a staple diet for many Belgians.
Having high nutritional value, low sodium and high mineral content, it’s a very versatile vegetable that can be used in multiple ways. Belgian endives can be eaten raw in a salad, like this Belgian endive salad with apple and ham, braised or grilled, the leaves can be used as edible cups for appetizers and it makes a delicious soup.
How to prepare Belgian endives with bacon and cheese
This recipe is a quick and easy take on one of the national dishes of Belgium; ‘chicons au gratin’ or ‘Belgian endive wrapped in slices of ham with a bechamel sauce and cheese’, but I have decided to use bacon bits instead of ham, just to give a different and more salty flavour to the dish. Feel free to choose between the 2.
- The hard inner core at the bottom of the endive can be removed if you want. I have done it for this recipe to be able to cook the leaves evenly (the hard core needs longer to cook).
- The endives should be chopped roughly and not too small. If the pieces are too small it’s more difficult to control the cooking and they will fast overcook. In the end, the endives should still have a little bit in it.
- I have used full cream for the sauce. Replace the full cream with a light version or even with milk for a lighter dish. The consistency and creaminess of the sauce can easily be controlled by the cheese.
- Which cheese to use? Traditionally Emmental or Gruyere cheese is used to make the sauce. However, any shredded cheese that is good for melting can be used.
- Tip: Even the triangular cream cheeses (think The Laughing Cow) will suffice as an easy and fast solution.
What goes well with Belgian endives?
This recipe can perfectly be eaten as a light meal with some slices of baguette or toast. Mashed potatoes also pairs really well to eat with the creamy cheese sauce. Or even just normal boiled potatoes can be eaten as a side dish.
Looking for more recipes with Belgian endives?
Braised Belgian endives with bacon and cheese
- 125 g (5 oz) bacon bits
- 2 Belgian endives roughly chopped
- 1 cup Emmental cheese shredded
- 75 ml (2.5 fl oz) vegetable stock
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) cooking cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon seasalt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped
- Slice the endives in half and with a sharp knife cut out the hard bottom stem. This is the bitter part of the endive.
- Roughly chop the endives.
- Fry the bacon bits on gentle heat in a skillet. If the bacon has bits of fat, no need to add additional cooking oil. Cook the bacon slowly for 5 minutes until the fat is released and the bacon is crisp. Remove from the skillet.
- Add the olive oil in the same skillet and on medium heat add the chopped endives and let all the pieces brown for 5 minutes. Add the bacon bits again.
- Add the chicken stock and let the endives and bacon slowly braise for 5 minutes. Don't cover. Add the cream and shredded cheese and slowly stir till you get a smooth creamy sauce and all the cheese is melted.
- Add seasoning (sea salt and pepper) to taste. Finish off with freshly chopped chives.
- Serve with baguette or toast.
- For a less rich and heavy sauce, use low fat cream or low fat milk. The cheese will make the sauce nice and creamy.
- This dish is best eaten with crispy baguette or toast as a light meal. For main course, it’s delicious with mashed potatoes.
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