Recipe from Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc.
A beloved classic of Belgian cooking; this is a simple, rustic family dish. The ham used would normally be Paris ham but York ham or your local smoked ham would be fantastic. The Comté cheese, which is from my home region, can be replaced by any British cheese. And, of course, omit the ham for a vegetarian version.
|For the chicory|
|4||Heads yellow chicory|
|1 tbsp||Lemon juice|
|2 large pinches||Sea salt|
|For the chard|
|2 small||Swiss chard stalks with leaves, chop the stalks into 1cm pieces; roughly chop the leaves|
|For the cheese sauce|
|1 tbsp||Dijon mustard|
|1 pinch||Sea salt|
|100g||Comte cheese, finely grated|
|1 pinch||Freshly ground white pepper|
To cook the chicory
Place in a medium saucepan with the lemon juice, sugar, salt and peppercorns and add enough of the water to barely cover. Place on a medium heat, cover with a cartouche and a lid smaller than the diameter of the pan (this is to keep the chicory submerged) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45–60 minutes. It is important to cook the chicory slowly to remove most of its bitterness. Turn off the heat, lift the chicory on to a wire rack to cool and allow the moisture to escape. Once cool, gently press out any extra moisture with a tea towel.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5.
To cook the chard stalks
Put the water and butter into a medium saucepan on a high heat. Cook the chard stalks for 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Once tender, lift out the stalks and cook the leaves for 3 minutes. Strain, mix the stalks and leaves and arrange in a small gratin dish.
While the chard is cooking, make the cheese sauce
In a small saucepan on a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, whisk until smooth and cook to a nutty blond colour. Take the pan off the heat, whisk in the milk and return to a medium heat. Cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring constantly with the whisk until the sauce thickens. It is important to cook it for at least 4 minutes as the starch needs this time to swell, which thickens the sauce. Add the cheese and mustard and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until the cheese has fully melted. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
To assemble the gratin
Fold the ham slices in half and arrange one chicory head on each slice. Pack tightly in the gratin dish, then spoon over the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the Comté cheese. Bake in the top part of the oven for 25 minutes. The top is the hottest part of the oven and the air circulation will help ensure your gratin gains its wonderful golden brown colour.
Recipe from Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc published by Headline Ltd.
Recipe © Raymond Blanc 2015.
Photograph © Jean Cazals 2015.