With the calendar full of family reunions and dinners with friends this month we thought we wish to try a recipe we hadn’t tried before, and more precisely a recipe for side dish. I found a very interesting recipe using chicory which could easily be transformed into a vegetarian or even vegan main course. It sounded like something light, yet festive, slow cooked and easy, because it could be prepared in the oven together with the main course. Slow braising, which is probably the correct term to describe this cooking method, accentuates chicory’s unique flavour, giving it a rich, slightly bitter-sweet taste, and to our opinion, makes it perfect with veal or pork.
As I said before, this side dish can successfully become a light main course, if you wish so, with just 5 more minutes of cooking. To transform it into Chicory au gratin you’ll need some grated Gruyere or similar cheese and some crème fraiche or double cream (3-4 tbsp of each will be enough). Prepare as described, than spoon over the above mixture and broil under preheated grill for about 5 minutes, until golden and bubbly.
Preparation and baking time: 40-45 minutes
3 tbsp (40g) butter
4 large or 8 small chicory
1 tbsp (15g) sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp (60ml) chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F. Spread half of the butter over the base of a shallow baking dish, just large enough to hold the chicory in a single layer.
Don’t wash the chicory. Just discard the wilted or bruised outer leaves from the chicory and trim the root end. If chicories you use are particularly large you may prefer to core out the bitter centre steam of the root.
Place the chicory in the dish and spread over the remaining butter. Sprinkle with sugar and pour over the lemon juice and the stock. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until tender. Remove the foil and leave the chicory under the hot grill for about 5 more minutes.
You can serve this side dish immediately or, as we prefer –reducing its juices first. For this step transfer the chicory in a warmed serving dish and in a small skillet reduce the remaining liquids over high heat. Add 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves. Pour it over the chicory and serve.