This time of year, you can never go wrong serving a vegetable gratin. The classic winter side dish, a gratin allows the most humble of root vegetables or winter greens to step into the spotlight. Pair with a simple roast chicken, pot roast or grilled pork tenderloin, throw in a green salad, and you have a fool-proof dinner party. The rich, creamy nature of a gratin insures it hearty enough to stand alone as a vegetarian entrée as well.
My only complaint with most gratin recipes is that they feed up to a dozen folks, and we are a family of two. So, I decided to revamp my recipe for spinach gratin, using Tuscan kale, and reduce the recipe to make about four servings, enough for leftovers.
Since I am just back on my feet after two weeks of discomfort from a pinched nerve and muscle spasms in my hip, I knew I had to streamline my method. Standing for any length of time is still not my strong suit. I began by buying a package of organic Tuscan kale that had been washed and chopped. Forget heating the milk in a saucepan – I stuck the glass measuring cup in the microwave. (One less pan to wash later.)
When it came to blanching and shocking the greens, I knew I couldn’t lift a heavy pot of water, nor would I have the energy to fish the kale out of another pot of icy water, let along dry the stuff. A quick nuke in the microwave and my kale was promptly added to my gratin sauce and cooked until just wilting, then turned into my vintage Le Creuset gratin dish – the only one I managed to grab from the too-low cupboard. The topping went on in a heartbeat, once I decided to skip toasting the breadcrumbs.
And, guess what? The gratin came out just fine…
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- ¾ cup grated Gruyére cheese
- 1 10-ounce package of organic Tuscan kale
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the milk in a glass measuring cup for i minute in the microwave.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and hot milk. Whisk sauce until it thickens and will coat the back of a spoon. Add the nutmeg and cayenne. Stir and turn off the heat.
- Stir in the Gruyére.
- Open one small end of the bag of kale and microwave on high for 1 minute.
- Add kale, salt and pepper to gratin. Turn on the heat and cook kale in the sauce for 3 minutes, just until it begins to wilt. Turn into an 8-inch glass baking dish or similar sized gratin dish.
- Combine the panko and parmesan and sprinkle over the gratin. Dust with paprika. Top with pieces of butter.
- Cook 25 - 30 minutes or until bubbling.