Recipe by: Malinche Baertsoen

Source: Malinche’s Grandma

Serves: 4

Serve with mashed potatoes

chicons au gratin
Malinche Baertsoen’s Belgian Chicons Au Gratin (Endives with Ham and Cheese)


  • 8 endives
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 8 slices of bone-in cooked ham
  • 100 g Gruyere cheese, grated for topping

Ingredients (Béchamel Sauce)

  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • Salt, pepper and nutmeg
  • 200 g Gruyere cheese, grated


  • Wash the endives and remove any damaged outer leaves.
  • Trim the bottom of the endives and remove the bitter root base.
  • Heat 50 g of butter in a saucepan and add the endives with a few drops of water (enough to cover the endives).
  • Leave to braise for 15 minutes lid on. The endives are cooked when tender. They change color because of the water intake.
  • Remove them from the saucepan and leave them to drain for half an hour. Save the juices from the sauce pan.
  • Put the brown sugar and butter in the pan and caramelize slightly the endives.

Preheat oven to 210 C (410 F).

Instructions (Béchamel Sauce)

  • Put the butter in the pan an stir the flour together with some pepper, salt and nutmeg.
  • Add the milk and let it cook until it is thick, stirring well.
  • Add the Gruyere cheese little by little and approximately 1 Tbsp of the endive cooking juice.

Instructions (Assembly)

  • Wrap each endive in a slice of ham. Put them into a gratin dish.
  • Pour the Béchamel sauce over the wrapped endives and place the gratin dish for about 20 mins.
  • After 10 minutes in the oven, add the remaining grated Gruyere cheese over the preparation and leave until the sauce is bubbly and golden brown.

If cooking is indeed the salt of a culture or even the soul of a country, then, in Belgium, we are definitely in seventh heaven. Its recipes pay tribute to the flavors of its high-quality ingredients that give us a true sense of pride.

Winter is not quite over yet. So why not try one of Belgium’s favorite recipes: “chicons au gratin”? Although called chicory in the UK, it is more commonly known as “chicon” or “witloof” (meaning white leaf) in Belgium and is called endive in France and also in the US. Chicory is particularly versatile. Raw chicory leaves are excellent eaten fresh or stir-fried and served as a vegetable side dish. Whole chicory can be baked, poached or griddled and of course, they’re particularly good wrapped in ham, covered with a Béchamel sauce and baked in the oven.

Believe us it is hard to resist the delicious smell seeping out of your oven once your “chicons au gratin” are nearly ready.

This typically Belgian white vegetable also has a dark side, the darkness of cellars. Its roots are indeed left to develop in darkness and approximately a month later produce immaculate white, fleshy leaves.

The story goes that at the end of the Belgian War of Independence in 1830, a Brussels farmer returned to his farm in the Josaphat valley of Schaerbeek. While he was away, he had stored chicory roots in his cellar with the intent to dry and roast them and use them as a coffee substitute. But his chicory roots, resting for months in the dark, damp environment, had sprouted small tender, moist, and crunchy white leaves. A new vegetable was born. It was the chief gardener of Brussels’ Jardin Botanique who later refined its cultivation and its success was almost immediate.

In 1873, Frenchman Henri de Vilmorin visited the International Horticultural Exhibition in Ghent and took the endive back home to present it to The French National Horticultural Society in 1875. The first crate was sold in the Halles de Paris in 1879 under the name of “Brussels endive”.

Eaten raw or cooked, in a salad or as a vegetable side dish, even as soup, this vegetable is nowadays very popular worldwide. As for the “chicons au gratin”, the dish is in fact composed of braised endives rolled in ham and covered with Béchamel sauce. You will find this typically Belgian dish on the menu of most Belgian brasseries or as suggestion of the day.


Download PDF here: Belgian Chicons Au Gratin (Endives with Ham and Cheese) Malinche Baertsoen