Thursday, 10 December 2009

Do Yourself a Party Favour Endive Right In

I often get asked what would be an easy yet elegant hors d'oeurve they can serve at New Years. I try to keep the work at a minimum when it comes to little bit sized app's. Because the work itself will be painstaking no matter what recipe you do: you will end up making all of your app's one by one. It's usually not as much fun when you have to make 2.5 pieces of everything you make.

It is common for catering companies to make 2.5 app's of each type per person. For example, you have 20 people. And you intend to make 4 types of hors d'oeuvre, then 2.5 times 4 making 10 multiplied by how many people there are; in this case 20. 200 pieces in total. Seems like a lot but when you figure that each one is intended only to be a bite size portion, it really isn't.

Doing little party snacks often don't get the appreciation they deserve. A ton of work usually go into it and most people consider them as a filler before dinner. Shame really. But that's the way things go. And so, in the industry, many establishments will outsource their hors d'oeurve from another business who would specialize in the production of this type of dish.

Endives are wonderful little vegetables. They have a unique flavour to them, can be easily used for garnishes and are great additions for salads. They are also great for hors d'oeurve as well. Unlike crostinis or crackers, there is no work involved in prepping them. Simply break the leaves off the core and serve.

To avoid confusion, endives are cone shaped and have layers that easily break off. In Canada, we call them Belgian Endives. I've worked with several cooks who called it something different (chicory, which we in Canada know it as something else, and witloof) but we all eventually understood each other. I've even worked with someone from Sri Lanka who referred to frisee as an endive. Suffice to say, we were both confused at first.

I've never seen endives grown myself, but like the white asparagus, it is deprived of sunlight to reduce the chances of it opening or turning green. A good rule of thumb for me when purchasing endives are to pick out the whitest ones. If there is chlorophyll, chances are it will be slightly bitter. Not better.

Crab and Watermelon Salad on an Endive

1 Can of Cooked Crab, chopped
1/2 Small Watermelon, medium dice
1 Small Red Onion, finely diced
Splash of Lemon Juice
Small bunch of Basil, chiffonade
Drizzle of Olive Oil
3 Endives
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl, combine crab, watermelon, red onion, lemon juice and basil.Mix well and season to taste. Lat marinate for 15 - 20 minutes and drain.

Preplatter endives on large plates. Spoon desired amounts on endive and serve quickly.

Makes about 20 hors d'oeurve.

Variation: no crab? Try lobster. No watermelon? Try mango. No Basil? Try a new store.

A Humble Chef's tip: you can buy crab frozen instead and thaw it and poach it and cool it and break it and clean it and chop it and season it and serve it. Or buy the can and open it.

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