Friday, November 20, 2009

A Little Advice, or, Making the Best of Stupidity

Yesterday, inspired by smittenkitchen, I decided to do two new and daring things in my kitchen: 1) gratin 2) greens.

By far the most daring thing was combining the two.

So, in a typical act of preparation I started making a grocery list. Now, I could claim that while I was making said list my puppy had an accident, my husband lost his glasses and fell into a symptomatic cursing fit, my stepdaughter needed geometry help and the butternut squash that was supposed to be roasting in the oven caught on fire, but those would just be excuses. Determined, I stuffed the list into my jeans pocket and got the heck out of dodge.

I would like to pause for a moment to recap:

a. I was attempting something daring and new.
b. I was distracted.
c. Even on the best of days, my memory is that of an goldfish.

Now that we're all on the same page, it may not come as a surprise that while I was supposed to come home with whole milk, gruyere cheese, sweet potatoes and fresh swiss chard, what I actually brought home was no milk, smoked gouda, red skinned potatoes and frozen kale.

Also, I forgot that the list was in my pocket and now I have an entire load of laundry flecked with paper pulp.

(Side Note: No, I was not drunk or strategizing world peace. This is just me. My mother chooses to think of it as "easygoing", probably because if it weren't for flexibility and improvisation, I would have starved to death long ago. My fourth grade teacher, on the other hand...well, let's not get into it. Let's just say she will NEVER be my facebook friend no matter how many times she requests it. Revenge is sweet. )

So, what to do with all these flubs? Roll with 'em.

I decided the potatoes were irreconcilable, so I mooched a ride past the store from C while she got lunch. The rest I just improvised.

You can find the original recipes here. Needless to say, I made a few changes, and it is deliciously wonderful. The smoked Gouda adds a wonderful flavor -- so gooda in fact (get it, gouda?) that C thought I'd used bacon. No, I did not use bacon; this is a strictly vegetarian dish. But I always take bacon as a compliment.

My version:

Serves 12

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound chopped frozen kale
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 whole milk (or, if you're like me, use 1.5 cups of heavy cream and 1/2 cup 2%milk)
2 garlic cloves, minced (garlic presses are wonderful and save so much time!)
2 tablespoons flour
2 pounds medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely smoked Gouda cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using a heavy pot, sautee the onion in butter until it is soft, and then add the kale, nutmeg and some salt.
2. Combine milk and garlic in small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt 2 tb butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
3. Assemble gratin: Butter deep 9×13 baking dish. Layers as follows:
  • Half of sweet potatoes
  • sprinkles salt and pepper
  • 1/4 of the herbs
  • 1/4 of the cheese
  • 1/4 of the greens
  • sprinkles salt and pepper
  • 1/4 of the herbs
  • 1/4 of the cheese
  • 1/4 of the greens
  • half of bechamel sauce
  • the remaining sweet potatoes
  • sprinkles salt and pepper
  • 1/4 of the herbs
  • 1/4 of the cheese
  • 1/4 of the greens
  • more salt and pepper
  • the remaining herbs
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin, spreading it around as evenly as possible.
  • Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 50 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Ultimately, life throws all kinds of curve balls, even when you're focused and organized. For those of us that suffer from chronic absentmindedness, curve balls are just a way of life.

A little advice:



  1. Yum - that dish looks delish ;) I enjoyed reading your blog during my Sunday morning coffee/ wake-up time :) Have a great upcoming Thanksgiving!

  2. I've added Curry and Cayenne & Chinese Five Spice to the Roux - switched out the frozen Kale for Fresh Swiss Chard. I'll let you know tomorrow what the fam thinks of it.