Endive and Fennel Gratin with Almonds Recipe
Here is my adaptation of cardos con almendras, a wonderful vegetable preparation popular at Christmas time in Navarra and Aragon. Cardos are cardoons, a vegetable that looks like oversize celery and tastes like artichokes. As cardoons are hard to find in this country, I use fennel and endive, which deliver a similar flavor. This is a fabulous dish to serve with a Christmas roast.
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 5 medium-size Belgian endives (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed but with the root ends left intact
- 1 medium-size fennel bulb (about 1 pound), stalks trimmed
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large pinch of sugar
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 cups sliced blanched almonds (1 cup coarsely ground in a food processor, 1/4 cup left sliced)
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Quarter the endives lengthwise and add them to the lemon water. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel wedges to the lemon water.
- Drain the endives and fennel, and arrange them in two overlapping layers in a wide, heavy pot. Add 3/4 cup of the chicken stock, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and the sugar. Place a round of waxed paper directly on top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and cook the vegetables until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the vegetables well in a colander, then arrange them in a single layer in a 12-by-9-inch gratin pan or shallow baking dish and season lightly with salt. (The vegetables can be prepared a few hours ahead to this point.)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy, medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium, add the milk and the remaining 3/4 cup chicken stock, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the ground almonds and cook for another minute. Season the almond sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the almond sauce evenly over the vegetables. Bake until the top of the gratin is brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the gratin and bake for 5 minutes longer. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then serve.
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