Collard Green Gratin
Adapted from Bon Appetit’s November 2013 issue
4 oz. thinly sliced country ham, proscuitto or bacon
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
2 bunches collard greens or kale, center ribs and stems removed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place pork on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, 20-25 minutes. Let cool and break into pieces. Combine breadcrumbs and 2 Tbsp. of oil in a medium skillet. Toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and add thyme and 1/4 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Mix in pork and set aside.
Cook greens in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Drain and squeeze dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop greens and place in a large bowl. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with greens and set aside. Reserve saucepan.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Melt butter in reserved saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth and very pale brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, half a cupful at at time, and add nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until thickened, about 5-8 minutes. Whisk in remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan. Add bechamel to greens mixture and combine, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Transfer greens mixture to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 9-inch pie dish and top with breadcrumb mixture. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until gratin is bubbling, 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Notes: Pork and breadcrumb mixture can be made a day ahead and stored airtight at room temperature. When we made this dish for Christmas dinner, we used the whole cup of breadcrumbs suggested in the original recipe. The mixture on top of the greens ended up being too thick and overpowered the taste of the greens. So, we’ve cut the amount of breadcrumbs in half here. Also, the dish could have used more salt or even a dash of hot sauce for those of you who want extra flavor.