This Provençal-style charmer is a great starter, side, or main dish
We can almost hear you muttering to yourself: “Kale? And cabbage? In a gratin? Really?”
Yes, really. And this is one of the best dishes we’ve made in quite a while.
We don’t say that lightly. We tend to post only recipes that we like a lot. But even by that standard, this dish is extraordinary.
Best of all, kale and cabbage tend to be inexpensive this time of year. So you get tasty on a budget. Nice.
Recipe: Kale and Cabbage Gratin
A gratin is a casserole-like dish that is baked in a shallow vessel, with a top coat of buttered breadcrumbs or grated cheese (the top browns nicely as the dish bakes). Cooks often use cream and cheese to bind the ingredients together. Think scalloped potatoes—or the fancy French version thereof, Gratin Dauphinois.
In this recipe, we use eggs instead of cream, then add cooked rice to the cheese to help bind everything. The ingredient quantities we specify are not meant to be exact, BTW, so don’t stress over measurements. As long as you’re in the ballpark, you’ll be good.
We found this recipe in Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest. It typifies the sort of dishes Shulman found in Provence when she lived in France. Shulman also contributes to the Recipes for Health series in The New York Times health section, where she publishes new recipes several times a week. She’s one of the best recipe developers we’ve encountered. Our version of this dish is very lightly adapted from hers.
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. Initial cooking time adds another 25 minutes, plus you’ll need to allow 30 to 40 minutes for baking time. So figure about 1¼ hours from start to finish. You’ll need a 2-quart gratin or shallow baking dish for this recipe (by shallow, we mean 1½ inches or so.)
This recipe yields 4 (maybe 5) hearty main-course servings, or double that number if you’re using the dish as a starter or side.
Leftovers keep for a few days in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container.
- 1½ to 2 cups cooked rice (preferably a short-grained variety; see Notes)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves (to taste)
- ~1 pound kale
- ~1 pound cabbage (about ½ cabbage head, either Savoy or regular green cabbage)
- ~2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste (maybe a teaspoon altogether; see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste; optional)
- ~1 teaspoon dried thyme (to taste; or use another herb of your choice—see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (maybe ¼ teaspoon altogether; see Notes)
- 2 large eggs
- 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably flat-leafed (or to taste)
- 3 ounces grated Gruyère cheese, divided (or similar Swiss-style cheese; you want about 1½ cups altogether, although see Notes)
- 1½ ounces grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided (you want about ¾ cup altogether, although see Notes)
- additional 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil (for greasing the gratin dish)
- garnish of parsley (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (If you need to cook rice for this dish, start it at this point; see Notes.)
- Peel the onion, then cut it into small dice. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic, then mince it finely. Set aside.
- Wash the kale and shake off the excess water (but do not dry). Strip the leaves from their stems. Chop the kale roughly. Set aside.
- Remove any blemished outer leaves from the cabbage head. Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core from one half (reserve the other cabbage half for another use). Roughly chop the cabbage into pieces of an inch or so. Set aside.
- Heat a large, heavy-bottom cooking pot, such as a Dutch oven, on medium heat. (Alternatively, you could use a large frying pan, but we find that a deep pot works better—see Notes). When hot, add olive oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer—this takes 15 seconds or so), add the diced onion. Add a few pinches of salt to season, then sauté the onion until it becomes translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute (but don’t let it brown).
- Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and cook for another 15 seconds. Then add the chopped kale. Add additional salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon Kosher salt—see Notes), then cook the kale until it begins to wilt (4 to 5 minutes).
- Add the chopped cabbage, the dried thyme, and additional salt to taste (a few pinches of Kosher salt for us; see Notes). Add black pepper to taste. Cook the mixture for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted.
- While the cabbage is cooking, beat the eggs in a bowl large enough to hold the contents of the Dutch oven. Wash and chop the parsley, then add it to the beaten eggs. Grate the cheeses. Add about half the grated cheese to the bowl, reserving the remainder (for the next step). Add the cooked rice, then mix everything together.
- Once the cabbage-kale combo has wilted, taste it and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Then add it to the bowl containing the egg-and-cheese mixture. Mix all ingredients together. Grease a 2-quart gratin dish (see Notes) with 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil. Pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the gratin dish, and spread them out. Top with the remaining grated cheese.
- Bake the mixture until the gratin is firm (start checking after 25 minutes—though baking usually takes 30 to 40 minutes). The cheeses should be brown when the gratin is done; if they’re not, run the gratin dish under the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top (note that if you do this, any bits of kale or cabbage that are poking up through the layer of cheese may char a bit; we like the flavor of this, but you may not).
- Serve the gratin either hot from the oven or cooled to room temperature. This dish looks nice with a garnish of parsley (although we sometimes don’t bother).
- If you don’t have cooked rice on hand and need to cook some for this recipe, we suggest starting the rice at the same time you preheat the oven (Step 1). One half cup of dry rice will yield enough for this recipe when cooked.
- A short-grain rice like arborio is ideal for this dish—its creamy texture blends well with the other ingredients. But any rice, including brown rice, will work OK.
- You could use a 12-inch frying pan (preferably nonstick) for Steps 6 through 9. But we prefer to use a deep cooking pot, such as a Dutch oven. That’s because kale (which you add in Step 8) starts out voluminous. It cooks down in a few minutes, of course—but at the beginning it’s enough to overflow a frying pan, even a deep one.
- The quantities of cheese specified in this recipe are approximate; a bit more or less won’t matter much. If in doubt, measure by weight rather than volume (because volume can vary depending on how finely you grate the cheese).
- Although Gruyère is wonderful in this dish, you can substitute any Swiss-style cheese that melts well.
- We use Pecorino Romano in this dish because we like its assertive flavor, but Shulman specifies Parmigiano-Reggiano. Either works well.
- We like dried thyme in this dish (Shulman prefers fresh sage). But substitute any herb you like—fresh rosemary, for example, would be wonderful.
- How much salt and pepper to use? Suit your own taste. We add a few pinches of salt at several points while preparing this dish (see Procedure), along with some pepper. It’s best to start with less than you think is necessary. You’ll be tasting in Step 11 before adding the kale/cabbage combo to the egg mixture, so that’s the perfect time to adjust the final seasoning to your liking.
- BTW, the kale/cabbage combo is very tasty all by itself, even without adding the egg-and-cheese mixture (though it’s not as rich, of course). It makes a great side dish.
- We use a 2-quart gratin dish for this recipe. But any shallow baking vessel will work (use one that is about 1½ inches deep). You could try using a 2-quart pie dish, for example. Since the finished gratin is quite firm and easy to cut into slices, baking it in a pie dish would allow you to cut wedge-shaped slices when you serve.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This is one of the best dishes you’ve made in a long time.”
“Agreed,” I said. “It’s an excellent addition to our gratin collection.”
“I love your Winter Squash Gratin,” said Mrs K R. “And that Fennel and Tomato Gratin. Not to mention the wonderful Celeriac and Potato Gratin you made last year.”
“Potatoes are always a classic,” I said. “Especially in Gratin Dauphinois—another dish of distinction.”
“Which reminds me,” said Mrs K R. “The French use ‘tout le gratin’ to mean ‘the upper crust’ of society. Seems fitting somehow.”
“Yup,” I said. “Especially since the cheesy upper crust of gratin tends to be the best part.”
“And you’re an expert on cheesy,” said Mrs K R.
I prefer to say I’m a cheese whiz.
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Celeriac and Potato Gratin
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