Serve this dish as a hearty appetizer or side dish. If you prefer, double the serving size to yield four entrée portions. As they're exposed to light and begin to age, the endive leaves curl and turn bitter, so be sure to choose plump, white, firm heads and store them in a dark, cool place. The gratin can be prepared up to two days ahead, refrigerated, and browned just before serving.
8 heads Belgian endive, trimmed and halved
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon butter
Dash of grated fresh nutmeg
2 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 375°.
Sprinkle endive evenly with sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange endive halves, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet; cover with foil. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until endive is tender when pierced with a fork, turning after 15 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400°.
Cook 1 3/4 cups milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). To make a slurry, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Stir flour into remaining 1/4 cup milk, whisking until well blended. Stir slurry, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper into hot milk; bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat; add butter and nutmeg, stirring until blended. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.
Arrange endive in a 13 x 9–inch shallow casserole dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with bacon. Pour sauce over endive; top with cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.