Known in French as “Endives Au Jambon”, this Belgian Endive and Ham Gratin is a typical dish from Northern France and Belgium. Endives are wrapped in ham slices, smothered in a thick layer of voluptuous Mornay Sauce and baked until bubbly perfection. It’s a great contrast of pleasantly bitter verdure under creamy deliciousness.
This is a simple recipe to make at home that always pleases the whole family. And so you’re well equipped to make this recipe, here are a few details on its key components: endives, Mornay sauce and ham.
Belgian Endives in Northern France
Belgian Endives, called “chicons” in the North of France and Belgium, are a star ingredient of the local cuisine and an emblem of the region. The North of France is in fact the biggest producer of endives in the world. The season for Belgian endives runs from October until May, which makes it a great produce to work with during Fall and Winter. Its pale leaves are delicate in texture and moderately bitter. They can be enjoyed raw – in salads for instance – where they taste crisp and somewhat fancy. They are also delicious cooked – boiled, braised or in a gratin – where they taste soft, juicy and mellow. This Endive and Ham Gratin is likely the most favorite way to enjoy them in France.
What is a Mornay Sauce?
In essence, a Mornay Sauce is a classic Béchamel sauce – one of the 5 French Mother sauces – with the addition of grated cheese. It’s creamy, lightly cheesy and a staple to have in your French cooking repertoire. Mornay is a versatile sauce that is used not only for this classic endive gratin, but also for making a croque-monsieur, cauliflower gratin or macaroni & cheese.
In France, “Jambon de Paris” is used for this recipe. Jambon de Paris is a lean, unsmoked, mild-flavoured ham that is sold cooked, sliced and ready-to-eat in every grocery store and butcher shop in France. In North America, this style in less common but can often be found at the deli-counter. Ask for thin (not shaved) slices of “Parisian Ham” from your butcher/deli grocer.
More Cooking notes:
- The recipe starts by boiling the endives for 45 minutes. After that, let them cool and gently squeeze them to drain excess water. It is very important to drain as much water as possible from them, or they will render liquid later and you will have a puddle on the bottom of your baking dish.
- You can make the Mornay sauce in advance, up to 1 day ahead before using it. After making the sauce, transfer it into a bowl and cover it with a plastic film that touches the surface of the sauce so no skin forms on top. Let it cool completely to room temperature and keep in the fridge until ready to be used. Before using it, re-heat the sauce in a saucepan over low-medium heat and whisk vigorously until it becomes smooth again.
I hope you’ll love this Belgian Endive and Ham Gratin (Endives au Jambon) recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please leave a comment!
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- Coq au Vin Blanc
4 large endives (175g-200g each)
1/2 tsp salt
4 slices of Parisian Ham
For the Mornay sauce:
¼ cup (62g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (62g) all purpose flour
2 cups (500ml) 2% milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup (50g) hard mountain cheese, grated (Emmental or Gruyere)
Pre-heat your oven to 395°F (200°C) with a rack in the middle.
Step 1 - Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the endives and salt, and simmer for 45 minutes until the endives are fork-tender. Take the endives out and transfer into a colander to drain and cool. Once the endives are cool enough to handle, squeeze them gently (leaf side down) over the sink to drain all the excess water. Squeeze them as much as possible, but without damaging them. Set aside.
Step 2 - Make the Mornay Sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a thick paste forms that leaves the edges of the pan clean. Switch to a whisk, and add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a slow boil, and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, black pepper and nutmeg. Adjust seasoning if needed (salt) and set aside.
Step 3 - Wrap each endive in a slice of ham and place them in a baking dish, side by side, nice and tight. Cover with the Mornay Sauce and sprinkle with black pepper.
Bake for 15 minutes, and finish with 2-3 minutes under the broiler. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.