The original version of this recipe calls for browning the endive in butter, which helps to tame its bitterness, but with a feeble nod to my arteries, I have instead substituted olive oil for two-thirds of the butter. Happily, the end result does not seem to have suffered, and so far, neither have my arteries. For best results, choose endive with sleek, tight leaves and no bruises or discolorations, and opt for smaller specimens over large ones.
2 to 3 pounds Belgian endive
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
4 or so thin slices prosciutto (about 3 or 4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup good-quality chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt, such as Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.
Rinse the endive, dry them lightly, and remove their outermost leaves. If the root end is brown or looks dried out, trim it lightly. Cut each endive in half lengthwise.
Warm the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add as many endive as will fit in a loose layer, cut side down, and cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the endive, and cook them for a minute or two on the other side; them remove them to a large (9” by 13”) baking dish, arranging them cut side up. Add the butter to the skillet. When it has melted and is no longer foaming, add the remaining endive, and brown them as instructed above and place them in the baking dish. The endive should fit in a single layer in the dish.
There should still be a thin sheen of butter in the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the prosciutto to the skillet, and turn them gently but quickly to slick them with butter. Tuck the strips between, around, and on top of the endive in the baking dish.
Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the skillet to loosen any flavorful bits; then pour the hot broth over the endive and prosciutto in the baking dish.
Cover the dish snugly with foil, slide it into the oven, and braise the endive until they are very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and baste the endive by spooning over any juices in the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 Tbs of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the pan juices have turned a caramel color and have almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream, and bake until it takes on a caramel color, about 6 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature, with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 3 to 6 servings, depending on what else is on the plate.
Personal Note: This is so freaking good. I am not the biggest salad person--my favorite salads don't focus on the leafy greens and are more about the other stuff, like olives or awesome tomatoes or cheese--and like a typical Asian (even though I'm not ;) I love bitter greens braised or briefly sauteed. I know this dish is a joke health and "I'm getting my veggies!" wise, but I don't care. It's amazing, even if you don't bother with the caramelized creamy last step...