Chicory is something I never ate in the UK, and thought I probably didn’t like. But over the last year I have discovered its virtues, when treated correctly (i.e. water should not come anywhere near it, if you want a result that is not limp, soggy, and unpleasantly bitter). Endives au gratin, where the chicory is pre-cooked, wrapped in ham, and covered with a nice cheesy sauce before being popped in the oven, is easy and obvious, but here’s a wonderful Simon Hopkinson recipe that sets it off at its best. Serves 2.
2 tbsp olive oil
25 g butter
salt and pepper
4 chicken thighs
100 g smoked bacon, cut into small dice
4 small heads of chicory, greenish outer leaves trimmed off
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tbsps good chicken stock
1 small glass white wine
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4.
Melt the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan, season the chicken, and cook on both sides till nicely coloured. Transfer it to a heavy casserole dish. Add the bacon to the frying pan and cook until browned, then add to the chicken. Finally cook the chicory heads in the frying pan over a medium heat, turning occasionally, till they are evenly browned — it’s important to get them nicely caramelised, since that’s what makes the flavour.
Tip out all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pan, add the lemon juice, and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Then pour everything from the pan into the casserole. Pour stock and wine into the pan and return to the heat. Bring to the boil, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and reduce by half. Stir in the parsley, pour over the chicken, cover, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. There won’t be much sauce, but what there is will be delicious. Serve with some nice sloppy, creamy mashed potatoes.