Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Greens Gratins

Kale-Swiss Gratin

As a way to squeeze another vegetable side on your Thanksgiving table, gratins (pronounced GRAH-tun or gruh-TAN) with greens are a great way to go. The two I'm sharing today follow the same basic formula: start with cooked greens (kale or Swiss chard specifically), mix with sautéed onion and mornay sauce (i.e. bechàmel with cheese melted into it), top with bread crumbs and bake.

A defining feature of a gratin is a brown crust. Since these are topped with bread crumbs, I like to finish the dish with a quick jolt under the broiler. Alternatively, you could use shredded cheese.

Kale-Swiss Gratin

1 bunch of kale (I used lacinato kale, but any type would work), leaves separated from stems (stems reserved)
2 tsp. plus 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Dash of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded emmentaler cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 F with rack in the upper third of the oven.

2. Chop the kale leaves into pieces about 1 1/2- to 2-inches wide. Cut half of the kale stems into 1/2-inch dice (it will be used below), keep remaining stems for something else or discard. Bring a large saucepan with two quarts of salted water to boil. Cook the kale leaves in the boiling water until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool. Squeeze leaves to remove excess moisture and set aside in a large bowl.

3. Melt 2 tsp. butter in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add panko crumbs, stir to coat with butter and toast in the pan, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool then combine in a small bowl with the grated pecorino romano cheese.

4. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying plan. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook another couple minutes. Remove from pan add to large bowl with the cooked greens.

5. In the large frying pan over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tbsp. butter. When melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, until lightly browned, about a minute or two. Add the milk, mustard and nutmeg, whisk to combine and cook until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

6. Pour cheese sauce over cooked vegetables in the large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to a buttered 9 x 9 baking dish. Spread the toasted panko mixture evenly over the top. Bake in the hot oven about 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture bubbles. If the crumb topping hasn't browned, turn on the oven broiler and broil until browned (watch closely, as it won't take long, probably less than a minute). Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit before serving warm.

Swiss chard gratin

Swiss Chard Gratin
Adapted from Alice Waters' Swiss Chard Gratin, The Wednesday Chef

Note: The original recipe did not contain cheese.

1 bunch of chard
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, diced 
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup milk
A few strokes of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1. Cut the chard leaves from the stems and chop the leaves into pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Cut half of the stems into dice. Bring a large saucepan with 2 quarts of salted water to boil. Add the chard leaves to the pot and cook until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove leaves from pot, allow to cool a bit, then squeeze leaves to remove excess moisture. Set aside in a large bowl.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt 2 tsp. of butter. Combine fresh breadcrumbs with melted butter, spread on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool until ready to use. Leave oven on.

3. Heat a large sauté pan or frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. of butter. When butter is melted, add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add diced chard stems, season with salt, and cook until onion and chard are softened, about 3 to 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to combine. Add milk and nutmeg and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cheese and stir to combine as the cheese melts.

4. Lightly butter a 9 X 9 baking dish. Spread cooked mixture evenly in dish. Cut remaining 1/2 tbsp. of butter into bits and spread across the top of the mixture. Then sprinkle the toasted fresh breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the gratin is bubbling and lightly browned on top, about 20 to 30 minutes.

*To make fresh breadcrumbs, cut the crust from bread, tear bread into large pieces and pulse in a food processor until you've achieved the desired crumb size.


  1. Both of these dishes are terrific, although I think I'm going to give the edge to the Swiss Chard Gratin. I couldn't get enough of it when you made it. (Although that's true with much of your cooking.)

    1. Interesting. I think I liked the kale one better, but they are pretty similar. You could adapt this concept with pretty much any hearty green or cheese and I bet it would be good.