One of those special Belgian and in particular Brussels grown vegetables is the chicon ( endive – witloof). The growing process is surprisingly complex and requires still a lot of manual labour but the result one of my favourite winter vegetables. Read all about this vegetable here.
CHICON – Belgian Endive is a bitter leaf type of vegetable, related to the radicchio, part of the chicory family. Popular in Belgium since the 19th century it has been grown from seed a large green plant forms with a large turnip looking root which is harvested and interred. In the darkens forms this new shoot on the root, the chicon is born.
BRUSSELS CHICON – Delaize grocery store invited me to visit a Brussels farm still producing chicon in the traditional way with the trade passed on from generation to generation. Very impressive!
CHICON GRATIN – One of the most popular winter oven casseroles is chicon wrapped in ham covered in a cheese bechamel and ovenbaked. My version is slightly lighter and deconstructed but just as lovely. I replaced the bechamel with cauliflower puree and the ham by crispy bacon bits. I omitted the cheese but you can of course sprinkle some on top. I braised the chicon in the pan without the traditional brown sugar but added some speculoos ( gingerbread cookie) for crunch an sweetness.
My chicon gratin
Yield 2 portions
- 4 chicon
- 20 gr butter, unsalted
- splash water
- 1 small cauliflower, steamed
- 100 gr bacon bits
- 2 speculoos cookies
- freshly grated nutmeg
- pepper and salt
- Cut the chicons lengthwise in half, disregard discolored outer leaves and cut the bottom about 0.5 cm. Heat the butter in a pan, add the chicon and brown on each side for a few minutes, reduce the heat, season and add splash of water and put the lid on the pan. Let simmer and steam till cooked through about 20 minutes, depending on size of the chicon.
- Cook the bacon.
- Blitz the steamed cauliflower into a food processor and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- To plate: layer some cauliflower puree, add the chicons, top with bacon and sprinkle some crushed speculoos.
on www.leeksandhighheels.com by Sandra Slawinski