Endive Gratin

Whenever I think of endives, I think of the year I spent in France.

During my junior year of college, I studied in Paris, at the Institute of Political Science, or Sciences-Po, as they called it.  While there, my classes were entirely in French – it being a french university and all.  I even took a Russian language course: nothing beats learning a foreign language in a different foreign language.

For the first semester, all of the international students – and there were a few hundred – went to lecture with the native French students, but then had smaller discussion groups among themselves.  The idea was to allow us to develop our French skills sufficiently, so that we could be fully immersed in the regular discussion groups by second semester.  It also allowed us a chance to meet the fellow international students struggling to learn the History of the Second Republic in French.

My Russian class, however, was the one class where I was completely immersed among the french students.  I was the only foreign student taking Russian.  I even bought the obligatory French-Russian Dictionary (c’est à dire, un dictionnaire Français-Russe).

One day, just as class had ended, the student sitting behind me, spoke up.  “Tavarish,” he began in Russian, “ti shutish smotret film snoy.”  I believe my response was simply, “Quoi?”  As difficult as English is for Frenchman, Russian is that much harder.  In French, the stress of a word falls on the last syllable; the same cannot be said for English or Russian.  To mix metaphors, listening to a Frenchman pronounce foreign words is like watching kids attack a piñata: there’s a lot of flailing around, with a few lucky strikes.

“Je n’ai pas compris,” I responded in French, eager to avoid pushing the conversation into English.  “Comrade,” he had said, “would you like to see a movie with us.”  I’d love to, I said, “J’aimerais bien.”

That night, I met Jean-Baptiste LeClere and his friends Jean-Rémi Cognard and Matias de Sainte Lorette (they were French alright) in front of the theater.  He had bought us tickets for Les Rois Mages, a movie featuring the comedy troupe, Les Inconnus.

You know you’ve mastered a language when you go to a movie and laugh along with the rest of the theater as the characters recite their lines.  That wasn’t me – at least not yet.  It’s an unusual feeling sitting in a crowd,  surrounded by laughter, wishing you knew what was so funny.

And yet, I had a great time.  I had made a new set of friends, with whom I would frequently get together.  The group, spearheaded by Jean-Baptiste, was ten to fifteen strong, and called itself Les Endivés – a play on words between a popular musical group, Les Enfoirés, and the vegetable native to Jean-Baptiste’s hometown.

Endive Gratin

Recipe adapted from Moira Hodgson.

PREP TIME: 5 minutes
COOK TIME: 35 minutes
YIELD: Serves 4

WHAT TO GRAB:
6 endives
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter, diced
3/4 cup water
Sea salt and Pepper
3/4 cup mild Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/2 cup plain, dried bread crumbs (recipe here)

HOW YOU DO IT:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Peel the outer layers of the endives and arrange them tightly in a baking dish, along with the inner layers.  Add the lemon juice and water, and then sprinkle with the butter, salt, and pepper.  Cover the dish and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the endives are tender.

3.  Remove from the oven and turn on the broiler.

4.  Drain the liquid from the endives.  Sprinkle the endives with the bread crumbs and blue cheese.  Broil for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread crumbs have browned and the cheese is bubbling.

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