OK. I know this looks like a big pile of cheese. Or even a casserole. Funny story... my husband LOATHES casseroles. Being from the Ohio, I have had my fair share of creamy, cheesy, crunchy, one (9x11, of course) pan dishes. He always jokes and says people from the Midwest always cook shit with cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions on top. He is not completely wrong.
Well, THIS IS NOT A CASSEROLE! It's not even remotely close to one. I actually would not even have come up with this recipe without the help of my other half. We like to go to Locale Market, AKA heaven on earth, for the good meats. They have this Tuscan ham that will make you want to curse regular deli meats to hell. This. Ham. Is. EXCEPTIONAL!
When he was purchasing the ham, the french butcher/cheese monger, said to him (I'm imagining this exchange in his beautiful French accent):
"You know what ai do wiv zis 'am? Ai tak zé 'am, wrap eet around braized endive, top wiv bechamel et gruyaire and broil eet. Zo delicious!"
He got home and told me this= Mind. Blown. Of course I was going to take our French friend's recommendation and turn that ham into a delightful meal.
This is super simple and rustically delicious. You are taking seemingly ordinary ingredients and turning them into pure decadence!
Ham Wrapped Braised Endive + Bechamel & Gruyere
6 whole endives
1/2 pound good ham (you could also use prosciutto or serrano)
1/2 cup white wine
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups water
bechamel (as much as you like)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
In a deep skillet or small pot, add wine, bay leaves, fennel seeds, peppercorns, salt and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add endives and cook in water for about 20 minutes, or until tender enough for a knife to be inserted and pulled out with no resistance.
Wrap endives with one slice of ham and place in a sprayed glass dish. Top with bechamel and gruyere. Broil under high for for about 5 minutes, and remove when cheese is brown and bubbly.
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
a touch of fresh grated nutmeg (or a pinch of dry)
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk in until smooth. Continue to cook for another two minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Gradually add 1 cup of milk while whisking to eliminate any lumps. Increase the heat just a touch to bring sauce to a low boil. Gradually add the rest of the milk while whisking the entire time.
Once the sauce has come up to a boil, this will thicken the sauce. Now is the time to add the salt, pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, and nutmeg. Continue whisking and reduce the heat to low until sauce has thickened.