At the tail end of last month, during that part of the year when the light seems kind of haunted in all its nuanced depth and shadow, 101 Cookbooks posted a simple recipe for a rustic casserole that inspired me to make my own version that very night. Go take a look at the image and tell me you wouldn’t do the same. I improvised, a lot, and what emerged wasn’t really an adaptation of hers so much as an inspired casserole of my own that took advantage of what I had on hand.
The success of this gratin owes a lot to the simple, winning combination of potatoes and cheese, here a happy marriage of piquant Parmesan and creamy goat cheese. I also omitted milk. Who needs milk when you’ve got cheese? The kale’s presence is subtle but welcome – a little bit of tooth and texture and a burst of sharp green in between all the savory and starchy goodness of this incredibly satisfying winter dish. Plus, only seven ingredients! You can’t beat that.
POTATO AND KALE SKILLET GRATIN
Yield: 6 servings
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes
5 cups shredded kale, lightly packed
3 cups leeks, diced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons butter
salt + pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (Place your cast-iron skillet on the stove so it absorbs some of the heat from the oven.)
Bring a pot of water to boil. Boil the potatoes until they are still firm but cooked through, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse under cool water, and drain again. Slice the potatoes into thin rounds, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Salt the potatoes lightly and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the leeks and saute until just soft, stirring occasionally, about three minutes. Add half the kale to the pan and stir; once it has reduced, add the remaining kale and saute until the greens are just wilted. Stir in the minced thyme and remove from heat.
Lightly grease your warmed skillet, and arrange a layer of potatoes in the bottom. Over that, arrange about 1/2 of the kale and leek mix. Press it down lightly so that the surface is somewhat flat. Crumble 1/2 of the goat cheese over the greens, and sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, the remaining greens and goat cheese, and another third of the Parmesan. Top the gratin with a final layer of potatoes, the remainder of the Parmesan cheese, and a healthy sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden.
Note: Freezes well.