Pheasant in Winter, Belgian Endive Wrapped in Ham and Cheese

I was greeted by two long-time, beloved friends, Kees and Pauline.
A beautifully cold and drizzly Dutch evening, we walked along the narrow cobbled street to Het Melkmeisje, “The Milkmaid.”

We first dined there in 1992 and have loved it ever since. It’s French country cooking that found Dutch roots.  Entrees are always seasonal so we all ordered the roasted pheasant.

I mention it because seeing it atop a bed of saurkraut was new to me. (The saurkraut is finished in a bit of duck fat).  Along the sides of the saurkraut mound were disks of country sausage and one delicious 4″ x 1/8″ thick slice of roasted bacon.  The dish is accompanied by sides of mashed potatoes, haricot vert and fresh lettuce salad.  It is country, rustic, deliciously contrasted and made me feel like becoming Dutch!

It is a dish that was conceived by Owner/Chef Jan Kraft.  Here he is basking in his beautiful dining room which seats about 30-35 persons, intimate and authentic in deep red walls with dark wood.  He and The Milkmaid have been here since 1992.  Hi, Jan!  Thanks for a delicious evening!

But the recipe that I’m sharing today is one that is cooked in Dutch homes as a standard delight, Belgian Endive, “Lof,” wrapped in ham and sausage.  Right now is the peak of the season for Endive.   My two dinner buddies were describing it to me over dinner and Jan said that he also makes it at home!

Although it is Belgian in origin, it has taken on Dutch roots and, as you know, each region adapts a dish to its own taste.  The Belgian version uses a bechamel cheese sauce while here the creaminess comes from the melted Dutch cheese.

Lof met Ham en Kaas” Recipe:  (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 8 heads Belgian Endive (if the heads are small, you may need 12 or more)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 slices of good flavored ham (of course, add more, but smaller slices if above you have more than 8 endive)
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 slices Dutch Jong(young) cheese or other mild nutty cheese. (Here again you may need more but smaller slices depending on the number of Endives)
  • 1 -2 ounces butter

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Slice the Endive heads in half and remove the very bitter core.  Pauline told me that she prefers to leave it in
  3. Cook the endive in salted water and the lemon juice for 20 to 30 minutes or until soft and cooked.  Drain.
  4. When cool enough to handle, wrap each endive, along with any loose leaves, first with a slice of ham and then over that a slice of cheese.  Place in a greased oven proof dish, seam side down.
  5. Sprinkle some grated nutmeg and dot with butter.
  6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve piping hot with mashed potatoes.  I’d pair it with an Austrian Veltliner, a dry white with strong fruit notes.

Enjoy.  This is worth a trip to Amsterdam!

 

note:  Endive in Colander photo courtesy Miran Rijavec

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