Wilted endive salad by Weezie

Posted on 06-21-10 · Tags: , , ,

[depicted here with frisée, below with endive]

Anjuli’s grandmother, my mom, was born in 1910.  She did not cook much until she married in 1940, as far as I know.  She went through WWII as a wartime bride, exposed to rationing and culinary marvels like Scrapple and Spam. I was a baby boomer, born in ’47, so for me her cooking style was a product of the 50s. She delighted in post-war conveniences: plastic bags, frozen vegetables, cold soda, Tastykakes and Entenmann’s, en masse condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup, and keeping leftovers in the fridge (sometimes too long in my opinion).  And she loved iceberg. Salads at home were invariably iceberg, tomatoes, carrots, onions and one of ten kinds of bottled dressing. The only exception to this rule was her wilted endive salad. She’d even make her own dressing. We always ate it as a main course because of the ample bacon and hard boiled eggs. I loved this salad for its heartiness, the texture of the curly, wilted endive, the sweet and sour tones of the dressing, and the lovely, crispy bacon. It satisfied all the tastes.  It stood alone beautifully. 

But I thought that the recipe was lost. I knew I didn’t have it and my dear mommy has been dead for over twenty years. Last fall I was visiting my brother Eric in Vermont and I told him how I was missing this salad. It had played a big role in my culinary memories of childhood, as it was the only really good salad she made.  Helen, my sister-in-law, looked up and said, “Weez, I have her handwritten copy of the recipe.  Do you want it?”  “Yes, Yes Yes.” I toothily grinned and batted my eyes at Helen, hoping to look fetching and praying she would not change her mind. These family recipes are much sought after in my little clan.  She handed it to me. There nestled in my hand lay an index card written in my Mom’s handwriting, whose script I remembered like it was yesterday. I was really quite moved. I started tearing up. I have been thinking about this recipe for about five years. I really had no clue what she actually did in a way where I could reasonably hope for success in reproducing it. To see that card, without even looking at the ingredients, brought her back to me. It brought me back to that cherished feeling of family, with the kitchen at the center of it all; her little kitchen with its icebox and porcelain sink and its black phone with a party line. 

As it turns out, the card is more rough notes than a recipe. Still, it was a place to start. In January I decided to plant endive expressly so I could make this salad. And once it grew, I played around a little until I had the taste I remember from fifty plus years ago. -Weezie

Notes on ingredients:  Mom would have used Gulden’s mustard and she would have used apple cider vinegar.  I tried the apple cider vinegar and found it a little sharp but feel free to experiment; I did.

Mom would have used nitrite-free bacon and free range eggs not by choice, but because that’s what she could get. I did go out of my way to find these ingredients, and would suggest for you to try and do the same.

Wilted endive salad

Wilted curly endive salad Serves 2
8 strips bacon cut into 1″ dice
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
2 small heads of curly endive, 4 – 5 cups coarsely chopped (endive is neither escarole nor frisée , but frisée works just as well!)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or combination of apple cider and balsamic 3:1)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon-type mustard

Wilted endive salad

Wilted endive salad

Fry the bacon. Heat a medium-sized frying pan to medium-low.  Fry the bacon to a medium brown and crispy.  Drain on paper towels and set aside. Drain almost all of the bacon fat but leave enough to cover the bottom of the skillet.  

Assemble the ingredients. Slice the hard boiled eggs in half; reserve the yolks for the dressing.  Slice the whites and set aside.  Cut the ends off the endive heads, wash, spin dry in a salad spinner and chop coarsely.  Put the endive in a glass bowl.  Add the egg whites.  Cover with a plate. 

Make the dressing. In a small bowl crush the egg yolks.  Dilute the balsamic to 1/2 cup with water.  Add to the yolks with the salt, sugar and mustard.  Whisk until smooth.  Add this mixture to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes until reduced by half.  Remove the plate from the bowl. 

Toss, marinate, eat. Add the dressing and the bacon and replace the plate.  Leave plated for 15 minutes, then remove the plate and toss.  Eat immediately. 

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  1. roxan wrote:

    Louise – I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but I think it’s my first time commenting. I think this story is incredibly sweet and your mom would be so happy that you are re-creating her salad. You are a wonderful writer!


    June 22nd, 2010 at 10:43 am
  2. Betsy wrote:

    My mother, born in 1913, made something very similar with homegrown lettuce. I don’t think there were eggs in the dressing, and it was definitely all cider vinegar. She used a sprinkle of dry mustard instead of Gulden’s. And she called it “wilted lettuce.”

    July 1st, 2010 at 1:28 am
  3. Yvonne wrote:

    I was raised by my grandmother who is now eighty-five years old. She used to make me eat wilted endive salad along with liver. The first go around, I absolutely hated it since an eight year old’s palate has no appreciation of bitter tastes. I never could get over liver’s texture, though. After I moved on to college, I lost the recipe and my grandmother had no recollection of how to make it.

    Besides being reunited with one of my favorite salad recipes, I really appreciated your story of how you too found it. Thank you so much for making this available to the public! I just finished making it, and the salad is delicious! Thanks again!

    September 26th, 2010 at 11:09 pm
  4. Tonya wrote:

    I am so happy that I found this. Though I am younger than you, my parents made this growing up!! I couldn’t figure out how to make it, but oddly enough, I have been craving it!!!! My mouth is watering. We are in Tennessee and everything is closed due to snow. I am seriously considering trying to get to a grocery store just to buy the ingredents! Even if I don’t get to the store today. I will be eating this soon!!

    January 21st, 2011 at 3:48 pm
  5. Some Like it Hot | chathampreservationfarm wrote:

    [...] arugula, chicory and mostly frisee endive.  It has a little punch when eaten so is best to have wilted or [...]

    July 3rd, 2013 at 6:25 pm
  6. Spradlin Betty wrote:

    This is similar in ingredients; however, my father-in- law made a dish that was very attractive. His dish tasted fantastic. I remember he whipped the egg and I think added a small amount of water. He put the largely chopped endive into a large skillet where he had fried a few strips of bacon. The bacon had been removed to crumble. After stirring the endive for a couple of minutes, he poured the egg over it and stirred to distribute the egg. When the egg was done, he salted and peppered lightly.

    Does this sound familiar to anyone??

    February 5th, 2014 at 12:38 pm
  7. Kristin wrote:

    My mother uses to make this for special meals for my father (his German mother made it while he was growing up). We all loved it, even as little kids. Her version also had well-boiled potatoes, which got tossed in and coated everything along with the dressing .

    Thank you so much for this lovely food memory.

    December 19th, 2014 at 8:29 am
  8. debby wrote:

    My mom was born 5 years before your mom, but otherwise our stories are the same. She has been gone 24 years. My father had a massive sweet tooth, so desserts were a big thing for her.

    January 21st, 2015 at 11:14 am

What do you think?