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Tour de France: Belgian Endive and Pomme Frites

I was delighted when Barbara at Winos and Foodies invited me to participate in her culinary tour of the Tour de France, especially when I discovered my Stage 3 started in Belgium: Wanze-Arenberg Porte du Hainaut

My first and only visit to Belgium was with my brother Ryan about ten years ago. He and I were on a road trip through Germany and decided that we were so close to Belgium we simply had to take a detour and visit.We drove through the Ardennes, stopping at Bastogne, Foy, and other places I knew from my years of reading World War II history. Then we drove north, parallel to the Wanze area.

It was like driving through a picture book of stone churches, country cottages and tidy farms. As we drove through the rolling hills and dense forests, we were mesmerized by the beauty of the Belgian countryside and kept stopping for photos, chocolate-filled croissants and strolls along cobbled streets.

I smile to think of the Tour De France cyclists pedaling madly through those places now, and wish I was with them only going much, much slower.

Wanze, which means marshland, is in the Meuse Valley built along the River Mehaigne.

From Wikimedia

Wanze was first mentioned in 1127.ย  Over the next several hundred years, it suffered through battles, sackings and burnings as the gentry tussled over rights of ownership and power. By the 1800’s things had settled down and in 1812 Belgium’s first sugar mill was installed. (See below) By the end of the century it was the largest in Europe, attracting immigrant workers from all over. Nowadays Wanze is home to BioWanze, the most innovating sugar refinery on the Continent.

From Wikimedia

Wanze is remaking itself as an eco-tourism destination with walking trails that wend their way to the ruins of an ancient castle and a Cycle Museum that features 160 bicycles from as far back as 1830.

From Wikimedia

When I think of Belgian food I think of two things: pomme frites (French fries) and endive.

French Fries actually originated in Belgium. A Belgian journalist noted in 1680 that country people in the Meuse Valley were making these fried potatoes. Allegedly they used to serve tiny fried fish with their meals, but when the river froze they substituted fried potatoes.

Belgian pomme frites are made especially crispy and delicious by double-frying. The first dunking ensures the potatoes are cooked. After they are salted and cooled, the frites are returned to the hot oil and fried one minute longer to brown and crisp. Although Americans traditionally dip them in ketchup and my Canadian countrymen douse them in gravy, Belgians dip them in mayonnaise. A decadent topping to be sure.

I had never cooked endive before conducting research for this post, and was delighted to find them in the specialty food section of the local grocery store.

One of the most popular Belgian endive dishes is a gratin.

I gently boiled the endive in salted water until tender, then let them drain and cool slightly. While they cooled I made a simple bechamel sauce with nutmeg and stirred in a small mountain of Swiss cheese. I wrapped the endive in thinly sliced ham, then nestled them into a buttered baking dish. I poured the sauce over and baked it for 20 minutes until heated through and bubbling. Pulling it out I topped it with more Swiss cheese and set it under the broiler until the cheese was browned beautifully.

I am now a huge fan of endive (or is it the cheese??). I was going to save it to use for my lunches this week, but it was so delicious I only have enough left over for one more meal.

Pop over to the other blogs featuring each stage of the Tour de France:

Stage Two: My Kitchen Treasures: Brussels – Spa

Stage Four: Strayed from the Table: Cambrai-Reims

This is my contribution to Wanderfood Wednesday.

Belgian Pomme Frites

Ingredients:

3-4 potatoes, peeled, rinsed in salt water and patted dry

vegetable oil

salt

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in deep saucepan over medium-high heat about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Place dry potatoes in oil and let cook for 5-6 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and let drain and cool on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt right away.
  3. When cool, return potatoes to hot oil and cook for 1-2 minutes more until they are golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Salt again if necessary.

Belgian Endive Gratin

Ingredients:

6 endive, washed and outer leaves removed. Trim bottoms.

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated Swiss Cheese

6 slices prosciutto or other thinly sliced ham

1/2 cup grated Swiss Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring pot of salted water to boil and cook endive 8-10 minutes until tender. Remove to colander and drain.
  3. In saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and keep stirring until mixture browns. Add milk and stir until mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, pepper, salt and first measure of cheese.
  4. Wrap each endive in one slice prosciutto. Lay in buttered baking dish.
  5. Pour cheese sauce over endive. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes.
  6. Top with remaining measure of cheese. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Serve immediately.
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alli - Great post and I love the endive recipe!

Outside Galler chocolates in Brussels | Belgian Chocolate Truffles - […] Tour de France: Belgian Endive and Pomme Frites » Rambling Tart […]

Jeanne @ CookSister! - Mmmm, I LOVE Belgian frites – and I think mayo is the only civilised thing to dunk your frites into ๐Ÿ˜‰ The endive looks AWESOME – but as you say, not sure if it is the endive or all that divine cheese that is making me drool ๐Ÿ˜‰

Wanderluster - Twice fried potatoes? I had no idea that was the secret. Can’t wait to test it out myself!

Gilli - This all,looks very delicious Krista, nice to see all the info about your stage as well

Happy Cook - Such a beautiful post. And i just love tha tpic of the friets. Something we have every week otherwise hubby and daughter go nuts ๐Ÿ™‚
Love love endive i make them when the weather gets cold here. Ardens is indeed beautiful.

Amanda - This tour is becoming more and more informative!
The endive gratin looks very appetising – I do love anything doused in cheese sauce!

RamblingTart - That makes me so happy, dear Chaya! ๐Ÿ™‚ I shall try to keep posting pretty ones for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Thank you, Lorraine. I agree with you most heartily! ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Thank you so much, Jen! ๐Ÿ™‚ I live in North Washington State. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Yes! Yes! YES!! Val, I’m a poutine lover too. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Thank you, Chris! You’re the only person I know who grew up on endive. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that’s cool!

RamblingTart - I love history too, Valerie!! I guess that’s why I sneak it in when I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Thank you, Barbara! It was fun to be part of this. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - I hear ya, Duchess. I confess I enjoyed every last morsel. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Aren’t they splendid, Sarah?! YUM! YUM!!

RamblingTart - That’s great, dear Oz! ๐Ÿ™‚ Amazing how many dishes are shared between neighboring countries, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚

Chaya - Your photos are exquisite. I can’t get enough of them. Love the potatoes too. I am a big potato fan but I am more a fan of those pictures.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella - That endive gratin looks absolutely heavenly Krista! I must admit that gratining anything is a brilliant idea in my books! ๐Ÿ˜€

Jen Cheung - oh noooo! I see cheese!!! im a cheese lover! love it! love your phtoography skills stills! which area do you live in? the scenery is so nice ๐Ÿ™‚

jen

bellini valli - I am a Canadian who loves her pommes frites doused in gravy and squeaky cheese curds for some of the best poutines ever.

Chris - Fabulous post! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love fries, but I grew up on endive. Your Belgian Endive Gratin looks unbelievable! Thanks for a great stage 3!

Valerie - My kingdom for a chocolate-filled croissant and perhaps a generous piece of this endive gratin. History has always been an area of interest for me, and your posts always make me want to grab a book and read up on all the places you visit!

barbara - Great post Krista. Thanks for participating.The endive looks delicious. Endive is not readily available here. Maybe we don’t have the right weather for it.

Duchess - I dont think jealous covers it.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake - Belgian frites are the best! I am chomping at the bit for a trip to Belgium! Ah well I can live a little bit of it through you tonight. Culinary tour of France sounds wonderful idea!

Kitchen Butterfly - Yummy…..you’ve just reminded me of a delicious gratin I can make! The Dutch, like the Belgians love this combo of endive, ham and cheese and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Love the chips too!

RamblingTart - I would too, Erica!! The food is divine – just what I needed to brighten up my weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

RamblingTart - Ooo, I’ve never tried endive in salad before, Katie. That sounds wonderful!! Isn’t that fun about the fish? It made me smile. ๐Ÿ™‚

Erica Newhouse - I would love to be in Belgium right about now, looks like you’re having a wonderful time and eating some very good food!

Katie@Cozydelicious - Two of my favorite things.. .fries and endive (covered in cheese, of course). Yum! I actually love endive even when it’s not covered in cheese – it makes a lovely salad. But those fries look incredible! And how funny about the tiny fish… interesting!

RamblingTart - Thank you so much, Deeba. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was so fun researching this post. I love learning about new places, or new things about places I’ve already been. ๐Ÿ™‚ So glad you like the food too. Mmm. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tweets that mention Tour de France: Belgian Endive and Pomme Frites ยป Rambling Tart -- Topsy.com - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Travel Belles. The Travel Belles said: RT @ramblingtart Tour de France: Belgian Endive and Pomme Frites http://bit.ly/b84D1D […]

deeba - Gorgeous post Krista! Beautifully written, and delicious ending. Pomme Frites & mayonnaise…yes please! And what’s not to love about the endives…perfect!

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