Endives, Apples, and Grapes
Recipe By Dorie Greenspan
If you’ve never put cooked endive at the top of your favorites list, or if you’ve never even cooked endive, it’s probably because you didn’t have this recipe to turn to. It came from Alain Passard, the Michelin three-star chef who has a magical garden outside Paris. Passard, obsessed with vegetables, turned the Parisian haute cuisine establishment on its head when he announced that he would serve only vegetables grown on his farm and that he would serve them simply. When Passard said simply, he truly meant it: dishes might be as basic as one potato (a perfect one, to be sure) baked in a salt crust and served, sauceless and unaccompanied, the instant it emerged from the oven. Prices for these little treasures might be as high as those for truffles and foie gras. Such boldness bordered on scandal, but soon Passard’s passion for vegetables and his sure hand with his harvest became the standard by which vegetable cooking was judged.
This recipe, recommended to me by my friend Meg Zimbeck, could not be simpler or more sublime. The fruits and endive are cooked slowly in salted butter — you turn them just once — until they are soft and caramelized. That’s it, except for scraping up the cooking sugars, and you need nothing more. The endive, known for its bitterness, keeps its hallmark flavor, but the apples and grapes become even sweeter under heat, so that sometimes you bounce between bitter and sweet and sometimes the flavors meld. It’s a remarkable dish.
This is the kind of recipe you’ll be able to play with, but I urge you to hold on to the grapes — they’re completely unexpected and so good that they just about steal the show.
Makes 4 starter or side-dish servings or 2 main-course servings
- 2 plump endives, trimmed
- 1 tart-sweet apple, such as Fuji or Gala
- 1 ½ tablespoons salted butter (if you can find butter with sea salt crystals, use it)
- 4 small clusters white or green grapes (in France, I like to use Muscat grapes)
- 4 small rosemary sprigs
- Salt, preferably fleur de sel, and freshly ground pepper
- 1. Cut the endives lengthwise in half. Cut the apple into quarters and remove the core. Peel off a thin strip of skin down the center of each quarter.
- 2. Put a large skillet (nonstick is best) over low heat and toss in the butter. When it’s melted, put the endive into the pan cut side down and the apples skin side up. Add the grapes, scatter over the rosemary, and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes, at which point the underside of the endives will have caramelized and the apples and grapes will be soft and perhaps browned. Gently turn everything over, baste with any liquid in the pan, and cook for 20 minutes more.
- 3. Transfer the ingredients to a warm serving platter or to individual plates and, using a sturdy wooden or silicone spoon, scrape up the cooking sugars sticking to the bottom of the pan. You might want to pour a few spoonfuls of water into the pan to help you nab the sugars and make a spare amount of sauce. Season the endive with salt and pepper, spoon over the jus, and serve.
Serving: You can serve this as a first course or as a side dish to chicken or fish that isn’t heavily sauced; something grilled would be just right. It is also a great main course (if you want to double the recipe, make it in two skillets) followed by bread and cheese — think blue cheese.
Storing: This really should be served as soon as it’s cooked. I’ve reheated leftovers briefly in the microwave oven, and they’ve been okay, but not nearly as good as they were the day before; endive has a tendency to become more bitter when it’s reheated.
Bonne idée: Thanksgiving Squash and Apples. A squash or pumpkin rendition is splendid for the holidays. Here’s the combination I make most often: 4 thin (1- to 1 ½-inch-thick) wedges pumpkin or squash (I use Red Kuri squash, which doesn’t need to be peeled), 12 to 16 cooked chestnuts (I use jarred), 1 apple (or pear), 4 clusters grapes, and sprigs of rosemary, thyme, or, best of all, sage for the herb. You can drizzle warm maple syrup over this — and it’s also good topped with toasted pecans, with a spoonful of a cranberry-orange relish alongside.