Vegetable Recipes

Braised Belgian Endive and Bell Pepper Wrapped in Ham with Sauce 

Braising is a method of cooking a product (usually large, tough cuts
of meat or fibrous or strong flavored vegetables), tightly covered, in
a small amount of liquid (up to about half the product height), at low
heat on the stovetop or in the oven.  Braising on the stove top is
a nice way to prepare vegetables in that seasonings can be imparted to
them during the cooking process that is relatively long and slow—in contrast to steaming or boiling them where seasonings are added later.  Readers are all familiar with “glazed carrots,” but celery, celeriac, cabbage,
fennel and Belgian endive can be braised with wonderfully tender and seasoned results.  A tight fitting lid on the braising pot is essential to
minimize evaporation of the braising liquid, which may be water or stock,
with or without added herbs and spices.

We’re going to go take another measure to reduce evaporation and intensify
the braising process:

TIP:  After selecting a braising pot (a pot just big enough with a tight fitting cover), roll out a sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) and pencil-trace the circumference of the lid onto the paper.  Scissor-trim the paper just inside the pencil trace.  Follow the recipe for assembling the braising ingredients.  Fire the pot and bring it to boil.  Reduce the heat to low simmer and carefully fit the trimmed sheet of parchment paper down onto the product.  That is, push the parchment paper down to contact the meat or veggies.  Then spread it out to meet the sides of the pot. (The parchment paper usually wants to curl when damp and hot.  Deftly, flip it over and it will behave.)  Then put the lid on to close the pot.  In effect, the parchment paper now forms an effective seal between the product and all the empty space between it and the pot’s lid.  The result is a more intense braise
with little or no evaporation of the small amount of liquid used.

Here is the classic braised endive from school but without butter in the braising liquid and with bell pepper strips (for color and contrasting taste) and a pre-fab sauce.  This is a great veggie dish that can be done ahead and finished in the oven just before service.  Any of the other veggies mentioned above can be substituted for the endive. The braising liquid can be flavored with just about anything that compliments the vegetable—from cilantro to herbes de Provence.

Braised Belgian Endive and Bell Pepper Wrapped in Ham with Sauce

Yield:  2 servings with leftovers

See Abbreviations, if needed

· 3         fresh Belgian endive (medium to smaller heads preferable)

· 1         bell pepper, cut into 3/8-inch strips, seeds and white removed

· 2t        sugar

· 1T       lemon juice

· S/P      to taste

· 6         slices of good deli country ham (smoked OK)

· ½ C    hollandaise or béchamel sauce (package OK)

· pinch   cayenne

· ½ C    shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Cut the endive heads lengthwise in half

· Trim out the core at the root end

· Refresh the root but don’t cut it off (until Step 8)

2.  Place endives snug into the pot (cut-side up) and fill with water to cover half the endives

3.  Place bell pepper strips in between the endives

4.  Add S/P, sugar (to reduce bitterness of the endive) and lemon juice (to retain color)

5.  Place a fitted sheet of parchment paper over the endive

6.  Cover and simmer until endives are tender, about 25 minutes

7.  Carefully remove the endive onto a rack to drain and cool

8.  Cut and remove the root, freeing the leaves

9.  Place a strip or two of bell pepper onto the cut side of each endive

10.  Carefully wrap each endive head with a slice of deli ham

11.  Place all in a butter-bottomed ovenproof shallow pan (or individual ramekins)

12.  Top with a little sauce and shredded cheese

13.  Just before service, heat in 325F oven to melt the cheese

Note:  Make a nice sauce from scratch if you like but for every night, the dry packaged white sauces by Knorr or McCormick are quick and passably OK.  Follow the directions, but cut the butter by one-quarter. A pinch of cayenne or chipotle powder will help these sauces.

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