Here is a simple, nourishing side dish for fall: a light gratin with shredded kale and potatoes. Our local farm has potatoes galore right now, and the kale is starting to sweeten up as the nights cool. This dish will take you into late fall and early winter and still be considered seasonal and local for those of us living in much of the northern hemisphere.
Most potato gratins are loaded with milk or cream; this one lets the natural, sweet flavor of the potatoes come through with just a dash of milk. There is a little cheese for flavor and a crunchy topping of toasted bread crumbs.
Kale and Potato Gratin
1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned boiling potatoes, such as red potatoes
1 bunch kale
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 to 2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or use 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as thyme or sage)
1/4 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place a pot of water large enough to accommodate the potatoes over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath.
Slice the potatoes 1/4-inch thick. Remove and discard the ribs from the kale, then chop the remaining leaves in 1/2-inch-thick ribbons by stacking the leaves and slicing cross-wise. This doesn't need to be exact — as long as you end up with a pile of roughly 1/2-inch-thick shreds of kale.
When the water is boiling, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently lower in the potatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender, but not totally cooked through. Drain and plunge into the ice bath. Drain again, then place on a dish towel and blot.
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, remaining 2 teaspoons salt and pepper. Add the kale and rub the olive oil mixture aggressively into the leaves.
In a 9-inch square casserole dish or pie plate, place the kale, half the cheese, then the potatoes, the bread crumbs and the remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, pour the milk over evenly and bake another 15 minutes, until the top is crispy.
This post has been updated. Originally published September 2008.