Saturday, February 22, 2014

Endive Baked with Pancetta

During my recent visit to Rome, I have tried many dishes, especially local ones that until then I only had read about. Besides sight-seeing the beautiful city, on the days when it was raining most heavily, I spent hours going through all kinds of food stores looking at the shelves and products they offer. And later, I bothered my friend's mother with hundreds of questions about what I ate, saw, and should try next. I wish I could bring all the food stores with all the vegetable and cheese sections back to America.

But instead, in addition to a huge chunk of genuine Parmesan, I came home with more admiration for Italian cuisine and with many magazines and books with recipes that I now try every day. But because pastas and pizzas are my family favorites no one complained so far.

When I was in Rome, me friend's mother in law gave me an Italian cook book that I have been since studying a lot, looking for new inspirations. Last week, I prepared a dish that looked interesting to me. And I was right--easy yet delicious it became one of my favorites.

This baked endive is similar to the French dishes I ate in France but, instead of béchamel, it uses cream and pancetta, which makes this dish even simpler. It has slightly bitter taste as endive often has, but the creamy sauce flavored with pancetta balances it and makes it perfect. And a piece of fresh baguette with a glass of wine makes it simply irresistible.

Endive Baked with Pancetta

(Serves four)
8 endives,
4 tbsp unsalted butter,
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs,
4 oz sliced and finely chopped pancetta (I used the one from Trader Joe's),
4 tbsp chopped flat leaved parsley,
juice from one lemon,
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan,
1 cup heavy whipping cream,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Cut a small piece of the butter and use it to grease bottom of an oven proof dish.
3. Cut endives lengthwise and place them the dish the cut side up.
4. In a medium bowl mix pancetta, parsley, breadcrumbs, half of the Parmesan, salt an pepper, and scatter on top of endives. Drizzle with lemon juice and pieces of remaining butter.

5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
6. Remove the foil, pour the cream with Parmesan on top, and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the cream turns into a thicker sauce.
7. Serve hot with white breads.

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