I don’t know what it is about this week, but I have been craving Belgian cuisine. I know I am part of a relatively small group of folks who love this weird little country, but I was fortunate to live and study there for a year, and what can I say? I liked what I saw! One negative thing about cooking this food is you miss out on the experience of ordering at a Belgian restaurant. Specifically, when you want the check at the end of a meal in Belgium, you ask for “de reckoning.” Can you think of a more intense way to complete a lovely dinner than requesting The Reckoning? I cannot.

Much to my roommate’s delight, this longing for the Lowlands inspired me to cook up some yummy Potatoes A La Boulangere and endives wrapped in ham and smothered in Gruyere cheese sauce. Yum, yum, yum. A good friend of mine from college once taught me that a well-balanced meal has a variety of color. Keeping this in mind, I balanced the yellow of the potatoes and the white sauce with some red, red wine. In my book, that counts. To show his appreciation, my roommate took the amazing photographs you’ll find below.

For the potatoes, I followed the instructions linked above to a T. The only difference was I used a smaller, circular pan since it’s what I have, but still used the same amount of milk and veggie broth. These came out really delicious; between the added liquid and the time spent cooking, these flavors helped cut some of the harshness that onion can have.

For the endives, I had to be a bit more creative since no recipes I found online were quite what I was looking for. I began by steaming the endives as I prepared a basic white sauce (2 tablespoons butter melted and whisked with 2 tablespoons flour, and a cup of milk slowly stirred in). Thanks to an earlier attempt to make French Onion Soup gone terribly awry (I’ll spare you the details; it was inedible), I had a whole lot of Gruyere cheese in the fridge, so of course that found its way into the sauce. Then I wrapped each endive in a slice of simple deli ham, laid it on the dish, and poured the sauce over it. The whole thing went into the oven at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Now, Julia Child I am not. This dish can and will be improved next time I make it. The potatoes were superb, but cooking endives was foreign to me and I know I didn’t get them quite right. The insides, as I had been warned, came out too bitter. Luckily, my roommate and I were able to eat around it and get to the good stuff, but next time I make this dish I think I will just take the time to core the endive, or cut it in half and remove a few inner layers. I had been worried about the endives coming apart, but really, since it all lays together under a ham blanket and cooks in cheese, I don’t think it will present a problem.

With that, I turn to my third glass of wine and to the Olympics.

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