Food & Drink

How to Cook Kale Gratin at Home

When you think of a gratin, you might picture thinly sliced potatoes layered with cream and cheese — pure comfort food. But did you know you can make a gratin without potatoes? In fact, one of my favorites is made with kale!

Kale is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods. But it’s hard to hate something that’s slathered in gooey, melty, creamy cheese. If you’re trying to convert someone — or convince yourself — start with this recipe.

What is Gratin?

Essentially, a gratin is a vegetable cooked together with cream. There’s often some sort of crisp, golden cap on top, created with bread crumbs, cheese or butter. Everything is baked in a shallow dish until thick and bubbling.

The word gratin is a form of the French word “gratter,” which means to scrape or grate. The word gratiné means crust or skin. Basically, the most important part about a gratin is the top crust — which is always my favorite.

This recipe starts with fresh lacinato or Tuscan kale. First, you’ll need to remove the tough ribs: Hold the thick stem, then pull on the frilly greens. It should easily pull off the rib. If a bit of stem comes with it, that’s fine.

To the kale, you’ll add a generous helping of cream and cheese. I add a bit of tomato paste for flavor and there’s also a touch of nutmeg, which pairs beautifully with greens.Place the gratin dish on a baking sheet to catch any cream that drips out as the gratin cooks. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour; you want the cream to thicken and the cheese to brown nicely. The outer shell of kale will crisp up, like kale chips.

Kale Gratin Recipe

Adapted from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus by Renee Erickson

  • 2 bunches lacinato kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of chile flakes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1½ cups grated cheese (I used a combination of cheddar, gruyere and Parmesan)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Place the kale in a shallow baking dish. Season the kale with nutmeg, a couple of pinches of salt and a bit of chile flake.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and tomato paste. Carefully pour this over the kale.

4. Top with the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden on top and the cream is bubbling and thickened.

5. Let the gratin cool for a few minutes before serving.

Alternatively, you can make this ahead of time, let is cool completely, refrigerate then rewarm when ready to serve.

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