Simply impressive starter: Sautéed Belgian Endive with Bacon and Goat Cheese

by Terry B on March 14, 2012

Elegant looks and sophisticated flavors make this surprisingly simple first course a fun way to kick off dinner. Recipe below.

I often say that inspiration for a recipe can come from just about anywhere. But two ideas from a single source is a rare piece of luck. The same informal dinner party that sparked last week’s dessert of sautéed pears with thyme and ice cream was also responsible for this easy, elegant starter.

That meal had started with my never fail endive salad with blue cheese and pecans. As many times as I’ve served this shared dish, no one has ever just taken a single polite bite and then leaned back to let others finish it. To a person, every diner has remained, shall we say, engaged until the plate was clean. Finally, I decided it was time to find another way to use Belgian endive.

Belgian endive, called chicory in England and simply endive in France, is also nicknamed white gold. Its pleasantly tangy, slightly bitter flavor makes it popular both for salads and cooked dishes (or in this case, a lightly cooked salad). The white and pale yellow (or sometimes yellow green) coloring comes from its two-step cultivation. Chicory is first grown outdoors, then harvested for its roots. Next, the roots and a bit of the tops are planted in sand or sandy soil indoors in a cool, dark place until the tight, torpedo-shaped heads form. If you’d like to know more, Kitchen Gardeners International has an informative piece on growing your own Belgian endive.

As a starter, Sautéed Belgian Endive with Bacon and Goat Cheese has a lot going for it. First, there’s bacon. No matter how much bacon has jumped the shark and we’re all so over the whole bacon thing, we really aren’t. Black will always trump whatever latest color is proclaimed “the new black.” And bacon will always be bacon.

Next, there’s the endive itself. Its mild bitterness plays nicely with the other flavors, even as it holds its own, bringing plenty to the party. Its distinctive shape gives the dish a put together, architectural look that belies the simplicity of making it. The slight charring from sautéing elevates it beyond a simple salad.

And finally, the goat cheese and a splash of vinegar bring everything together, each adding their own notes. Blue cheese would also work well, although differently, as would any number of cheeses (although nothing in the cheddar direction, I think).

One last note before the recipe. Fellow blogger Kitchen Riffs is often commenting here, sharing insightful ideas about food. If you’re looking for another way to use beautiful, deliciously bitter Belgian endive, try his Roast Endive recipe.

Sautéed Belgian Endive with Bacon and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a starter (can be doubled, etcetera)

2 strips of bacon, cut crosswise into matchsticks
2 heads Belgian endive
white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
about 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled (see Kitchen Notes)
salt

This comes together very quickly, so have all your ingredients prepared before starting. Trim the very base from the endive heads and discard any brownish outer leaves. Slice in half lengthwise with a very sharp knife. Place bacon matchsticks in a cold, dry nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Reduce heat to medium-low and place endive head halves in skillet, cut side down. Swirl to coat cut sides with bacon fat and cook undisturbed until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Gently turn and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes.

Divide cooked endive between two serving plates. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar on each serving and top with bacon and goat cheese. Serve warm. Pass the salt at the table, if needed (I used reduced-sodium bacon, so salt was called for).

Kitchen Notes

Crumble your own cheese, please. You can buy pre-crumbled goat cheese, but don’t. It suffers from the same flaw as pre-grated Parmesan cheese—it is dry and flavorless. Also, make sure the cheese is nice and cold; it will crumble better that way.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

randi March 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm

This is my all time favourite vegetable. Being Dutch, we grew up eating this all the time and usually the same way; braising it, then adding ham and cheese. Never had it with balsamic before. Sounds like a perfect addition.
Too bad it is so expensive. It took my family quite some time to get used to its slight bitterness. Those were the good old days when I could eat the whole serving myself. Now I have to share :(

randi March 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I usually keep a chunk of goat cheese in my freezer for sprinkling on salads. It chops quickly and doesn’t stick on everything. I have never noticed any change in texture flavour since the pieces are small.

kitchenriffs March 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Wow, thanks for the mention! Very unexpected and very appreciated. Now, on to today’s recipe! I love those dishes where everyone is too busy gorging to converse. Although you were describing another dish, I’ll bet the same applies to this one. I haven’t yet tried an Endive Sautée – it’s on the list of things I want to cook – but yours looks perfect. Endive + balsamic vinegar is a great combo, and who can resist bacon? Not me! The goat cheese sounds like a great addition too. Really nice recipe – thanks for this.

Jill Mant~a SaucyCook March 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Love this!!! A local restaurant used t0 make a grilled caesar and I enjoyed it. Since I like endive a lot more than I like romaine (it’s not that I dislike romaine, it just doesn’t offer the flavor that endive does) I can only imagine how good this tastes….until, of course, I run out and pick up some endive!! Thanks; I love stopping by your blog and if you were closer I would definitely be conniving as to how to get an invite to dinner…ha!

Terry B March 15, 2012 at 1:00 am

Randi, we made the same mistake with guacamole, insisting our girls try a single bite after they’d avoided it for numerous Mexican restaurant dinners. They loved it, of course. What were we thinking? And thanks for the tip on freezing goat cheese—even popping it in the freezer for 15 minutes before using it can cut down on the sticking-to-the-fingers quotient.

Glad to give you the shout out, kitchenriffs. Hope you try the recipe and like it.

Thanks, Jill! You know, if you lived closer, I’m sure there’d be lots of back and forth on the dinner invites.

Pinda March 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I’ll be starting my St. Patrick’s dinner with this, moving onto lamp chops, and finishing with the pear dessert. Just two of us. Thanks for the ideas!

Valeria March 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Hi Terry I am an Italian food blogger living in Amsterdam. I had never tasted this vegetable till I went to Holland. To be honest it has never been one of my favourites but I am happy I found this recipe. The combination with the goat cheese sounds delicious! I will absoulutely try this and let you know if I changed my mind about Belgian endive. I am sure I’ll be back soon

Terry B March 17, 2012 at 2:08 am

Wow, Pinda, that’s very cool! I hope you have a lovely dinner. And lamb is perfect for an Irish celebration.

Valeria, what a cool experience you’re having. I’m glad you’re sharing it on your blog. I hope this dish makes Belgian endive work for you. If you’re a fan of blue cheese, I would also encourage you to try the endive salad with blue cheese and pecans.

Julius Juliusson March 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Hi lookong good. Simply and interesting. Good luck to you.

Fuji Mama March 21, 2012 at 3:39 am

This looks absolutely fabulous! Three of my all-time favorite ingredients in one dish…it can’t be anything but good!

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