Grilled Endive with Smoked Salmon and Lemongrass Beurre Blanc

endive with salmon
Admittedly, this is probably not a recipe that you’ll bring to your next block party (depending on the block).  Nor will you see this dish arranged on a paper plate alongside baked beans and an Oscar Meyer Wiener.  Nope, this is a different kind of grill fare, made for epicurean ambassadors of outdoor cooking who aren’t afraid to cook a beurre blanc over the coals of a kettle grill.  If your next outdoor party calls for something a little more delicate than frozen burgers, give this recipe a shot.

Makes: 6 elegant endive bites
Total kitchen time: 40 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 3 heads of Belgan Endive (or try Escarole)
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass
  • 3 tbsp. champagne (or sweet white wine)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 lb. smoked salmon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  1. Preheat your grill over low heat.  If your grill has multiple zones, set the front zone to medium high and leave the back zone off.  You can also make this recipe in the oven, but you’ll miss all the sunshine flavor.
  2. Slice each head on endive lengthwise and coat all sides with olive oil.  Lightly salt both sides of the endive. 
  3. Place the endive, round side down, on the cool area of your grill and close the lid.  Grill, turning once, for 15 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the lemongrass and sweat it for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.  Add the champagne or wine and boil for another 1-2 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Working 1 tsp. at a time, add the cold butter while constantly whisking.  The butter should not melt right away and at no point should it start to bubble.  Wait until each tsp. of butter is completely absorbed until you add the next one.  If the butter stops melting in to the sauce, put the pan over low heat for just a moment.  Just don’t stop whisking!  Once the butter is completely added, your sauce is done. 
  6. Crumble some of the smoked salmon over the cut side of the endive and top with a small amount of the beurre blanc.  Season with a sprinkling of sea salt, to taste.

These elegant treats are sure to turn heads at your next back yard party.  They pair very well with dry white wine, or white wine sangria.  So, don your finest linen pants and get eating!

Lemongrass-Mint Poached Halibut

poached halibut Halibut is the tofu of fish, but in a good way.  You can fry it, grill it, bake it, poach it or roast it, and it will absorb flavors like a sponge (figuratively – I’ve never cooked with sponges).  This dish is nouveau Mexican, my favorite kind of Mexican, but is adaptable to whatever flavors you have in mind.  The jicama taquito with braised leek and avocado filling adds a cooling crunch to this great summer dish.

Makes: 4 open-faced tacos
Total kitchen time: 1 hour

Shopping List:

  • 2 lbs. halibut fillet, skin removed
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 jicama root
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Fill a large skillet with hot water, about 1″ deep.  Add the chopped mint leaves and lemongrass and bring to a boil.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, proceed with the following steps.
  2. Peel the jicama root and slice it in half through the middle (the equator).  Using a mandoline (or a very sharp knife and steady hands), slice the jicama into discs less than 1 mm thick.  Chances are that you’ll have some mistakes lying around – it is actually kind of difficult to shave jicama into discs this thin.  Finely dice about 2 tbsp. of your mistakes and save them for the next step.
  3. Scoop out the avocados into a medium bowl.  Add the finely diced jicama mistakes, garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside the avocado filling and jicama discs.
  4. Cut off the bottom and top end of the leek.  Then, cut the leek lengthwise down the middle.  With the flat (cut) side of the leek on your chopping board, run your knife from top to bottom making very small strips.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the leek strips and cook gently until the leeks have softened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Now would be a good time to start poaching the fish.  Cut the fillet into 4 equal portions and gently set them in the boiling lemongrass-mint water.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Poach, turning once, for a total of about 10 minutes.
  7. Next, fry the tortillas.  Heat a medium saucepan over high heat and add enough vegetable oil to cover the pan about 1/2″ deep.  Bring the oil to 350°F and add the corn tortillas, one at a time.  Fry the tortillas about 30 seconds on each side.  Immediately drain each tortilla on a stack of paper towels.  Dust one side lightly with cinnamon and paprika.  Set aside.
  8. Spoon a bout 1 tbsp. of avocado filling onto each jicama disc, then top with strips of braised leek.  Roll the jicama into a log shape and set aside.
  9. Drain each piece of fish and plate atop the fried tortilla.  Add the jicama taquito and sprinkle finishing salt (I used red Hawaiian salt, though regular sea salt will work) over everything. 

Admittedly, this dish is a little bit of work, but the result is beautiful and delicious.  You could easily turn this into a summer salad by using tostada shells instead of corn tortillas, and adding in some Pico de Canario.