Wrong. If you must cover your vegetables in cheese to make them palatable, you're turning a low-calorie dish into one that will have your doctor bemoaning your elevated levels of cholesterol. Nevertheless, it's probably better to eat cheese-covered vegetables than none at all, which is where the classic endive gratin comes in.
2 tsp butter
3 endives, sliced in half along their length and outer leaves removed
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
200g lardons (or bacon cut into small strips)
juice of ½ a lemon
3 generous handfuls of grated cheese (your choice, but Gruyère and Tomme d'Audrix are best)
200 ml cream (single works, double is more indulgent)
a handful of breadcrumbs or panko (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 180°. Use ½ a teaspoon of the butter to grease an ovenproof dish that will hold the endives snugly, without (much) overlapping.
2. In a deep frying pan over a medium-high heat, place the endives cut-side down and cover with the stock, the lemon juice, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil. Once the stock has boiled, cover the pan with a round of baking parchment (punctured to allow the steam to escape), reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for around 15 minutes, until the endives are tender but not floppy.
3. While the endives are cooking, brown the lardons (or bacon) in a dry frying pain over a medium-high heat. They will cook in their own fat, and depending on the amount of fat in the lardons you might find that you need to drain the pan two or three times while cooking. I like my lardons brown and semi-crunchy, which takes the best part of 10 minutes, but if you prefer them a bit chewy it will take around 5 minutes.
4. Remove the endives from the pan and pat thoroughly dry using paper towels. You might want to set them aside for a few minutes first so that they are cool enough to handle.
5. Put the endives into the buttered dish so that they nestle together snugly. Scatter the cooked lardons over the endives, then cover with a handful of the grated cheese. Pour the cream over the dish, then cover with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs (if using). Dot the remaining butter on top. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Bake for 20-30 minutes. The dish will be ready when the top is golden brown and the cream is bubbling away.
Serves two as a main dish with salad, or three as a side dish. Works particularly well with lamb.